The Cabinet on Thursday announced that the government would temporarily defer the service of National guardsmen who have secured a seat in British universities so that they would not have to pay the higher fees that come into effect from 2021.
The decision followed the unsuccessful attempts to convince the British government to make allowances for prospective male students who missed out on the last year of the cheaper home fee status for EU students because of their 14-month stint in the army.
Government spokesman Kyriacos Kousios said after the cabinet meeting the decision only concerned new conscripts who went into the army this year.
Kousios said cabinet would send to the parliament an additional budget for the recruitment of an additional number of contracted soldiers (SYOP) to fill the gap of the temporarily dismissed national guards.
“The Cabinet deemed it necessary to help these conscripts so that they can start taking classes in British universities this year so that they can benefit from lower fees,” Kousios said.
He said they did not know exactly how many conscripts would express interest as yet.
“Interested soldiers have been asked to submit an application so that we can have the exact number and see how to fill the gaps that will arise in the National Guard,” he said.
No more details were given on when these conscripts will be required to resume their military service.
In July, the UK announced that from September 2021 fees will increase substantially because of Brexit and all EU students will pay international fees instead of home fees.
Defence ministry spokesman Christos Pieris said earlier in the day that conscripts interested in benefiting from this arrangement would be asked to present their letter of acceptance from a specific university.
He too had said they did not know how many would express interest but parents of the students previously said there are about 500. This number, however, includes both the ones who have already been accepted at a specific university, but deferred for a year because of army service, and those who were only going to apply this year for a place next year.
It is understood that only those who have been accepted for a place will be eligible for deferment of military service.
Even if the affected men can go to university now, it will leave them very little time to prepare as most English universities start at the end of September and Scottish ones even earlier.
Though the education ministry was hoping to make a special agreements with the UK for all of the roughly 500 young men concerned, the UK government said it was not in the position to make an exception for Cyprus, as it would discriminate against other EU countries.
At the time the parents asked for the students to be allowed to start studying this year and serve in the army afterwards but the defence ministry initially countered an exception could not be made for all of them, as 500 was too many a number for Cyprus’ small national guard to manage without.