Cyprus Mail

Minister pledges to seek deal with UK over massive university fee hike

Education minister Prodromos Prodromou

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Wednesday that the state’s priority is find a solution for students expected to enter English universities in 2021, the year tuition fees are expected to increase for EU students.

Last week the UK announced EU students would no longer be eligible to pay home fees of £9,250 per year or receive loans from student finance from the academic year starting 2021.

According to data presented at the session, a total of 8,865 Cypriot students are in the UK, 7,635 of whom attend universities in England.

Speaking at a House education committee session, Prodromou said the government’s goal is to make an agreement with the UK in the coming years. Their priority, he said, is to find a solution for male students graduating from high school this year but who cannot attend until 2021 due to their compulsory military service.

A written statement from a male student was read out to MPs, saying he had been offered a place at the University of Cambridge, but he would have to wait until 2021 to attend and for his specific course of study would have to pay £45,000 a year in international tuition fees instead of £9,000 a year if he attended this year.

The student said a girl, who was accepted at the same time and can start classes in 2020, will be exempt from this fee increase.

Meanwhile, a defence ministry spokesperson present at the meeting said putting off military service would be impossible as the number of young people is too high to make a delay in military service feasible.

Also present at the meeting was Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, who said the government is working on finding a solution with British authorities.

He said a tally of students registered at British universities or wishing to attend them in the future will be carried out electronically to have a clear picture of the number that will be affected by the increase in fees.

Christodoulides added the ministries will inform the head of the House education committee on developments and contacts with British officials.

MPs suggested replacing the loans from Student Finance England, with loans from the government for students studying in the UK.  Commenting on the matter, Christodoulides said it is not one of his ministry’s authorities, but if it were to happen loans would also need to be made across the board for all Cypriot students here and abroad.

Over the weekend, Christodoulides spoke to UK Minister of Europe Wendy Morton and his counterpart Dominic Raab about the issue.

In statements to CyBC on Tuesday, Christodoulides said he discussed this issue with Raab on Sunday, and that both ministers agreed to continue looking into the issue, to see what arrangement could be made for Cypriot students.

“It is important we will continue [to discuss with the UK] in the hopes of having a positive result,” he said.

Christodoulides added the issue is not part of EU negotiations for Brexit, and they will have to discuss the matter bilaterally.

The current decision made by the UK only applies for English universities at present. No announcements have been made about Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish universities. So far, Scottish universities have a policy of charging no fees to EU students.

The UK decision has already sparked concerns among Cypriot students. A petition was started on by students in Cyprus calling for a rethink on the potential fee increase.

It noted that fees could rise from £9,250 a year to above £20,000 for the social sciences, above £30,000 for courses relating to sciences and engineering and above £40,000 for medicine.

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