THE TWO public universities, fearing a backlash from the political parties and teaching unions, warily announced that they would this year accept a small number of students who had passed international exams and had not sat the state Pancyprian exams. This was a temporary measure, the universities said, as there were undergraduate places that had not been filled this year, presumably because candidates had not scored high enough marks in the Pancyprian exams.
It is a slapdash selection method that does not allow students from private schools to make any plans about which university to attend as they only have the University of Cyprus (UCy) and the applied sciences university Tepak as possible back-up choices. They have to hope there will be some places available because public school candidates did not score high enough in the state exams. Next year, there might be no places for students with good A level or International Βaccalaureate results because the public school students score higher marks.
This is no example for any educational institution interested in cultivating excellence to set. By what educational principles are private school students of high intelligence and ability excluded from public universities because they did not sit the Pancyprian exams? Educational principles are not given any consideration in Cyprus because this is a society that is run by the unions which abhor excellence and champion mediocrity.
This is why all the teaching unions have unanimously expressed their outrage about the decision, demanding the intervention of the political parties and threatening measures against the “arbitrary and illegal” decision. One union representative demanded that the unallocated places be given to public school students, regardless of whether these students were of low academic standard and might be unable to cope. The logic is that a third-rate student with a low mark in the Pancyprian exams should be preferred to a private school student with three ‘A’ grades in their GCE A levels.
Promoting and protecting mediocrity suits indolent public school teachers because they will never be under pressure to work harder to raise educational standards at public schools if places at public universities are guaranteed for their students. They vehemently oppose competition for places at public universities because this might expose the low standards of state schools. And the universities are afraid to confront the unions because the latter also have the political parties on their side. Two years ago, when the UCy announced plans to give places to students who sat international exams, the entire party and union system mobilised to stop it and they succeeded.
We should expect the same reaction now. It is up to the universities to stand their ground this time, because teaching unions and political parties have no moral or legal authority to dictate admissions policy.