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Cyprus Education

Hopes rise that soldiers with UK university places can start this month

File photo of national guardsmen during an exercise

The defence ministry will decide what to do about male conscripts who face increased fees in the UK if they do not go to university until 2021 only after their exact numbers are known, defence ministry spokesman Christos Pieris said on Thursday.

The men will have to pay the higher tuition fees at UK universities because army service prevents them from starting their studies this year. 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.

Parents of the students previously said there are about 500 of them, but this includes both the ones who have already been accepted at a specific university, but deferred because of army service, and those who were only going to apply this year for a place next year.

The defence ministry is now going to find out exactly how many already had a university place.

“We are going to ask all to give us their letter of acceptance and then we will decide what to do. There may be a hundred or fifty, anyway far fewer than 500,” Pieris told the Cyprus Mail.

He explained a meeting to discuss possible measures was cut short on Wednesday in which President Nicos Anastasiades, members of the education ministry and the defence ministry took part after Anastasiades decided to determine the numbers first.

“They didn’t even discuss suggestions,” the spokesman explained. “So we don’t know if they might have to finish the army and will be given some money [to cover the increased fees] or whether they will be allowed to study now and do their service afterwards.”

This will be discussed at the next meeting which will likely be next week when the numbers are out, said Pieris.

If it is decided that 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.

The government announced in July students should discuss enrolling under current terms with the universities of their choice.

Though the education ministry was hoping to make a special agreement with the UK for all 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.

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