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Cyprus Mail 75 years: sowing the seeds of tertiary education

Feature 75 Years Katy Students On The First Day Of The University
Students on the first day of the university

Just over a year after I left university I started working as a reporter at the Cyprus Mail, and although it wasn’t anything like 75 years ago the change in the island over that time sometimes makes it feel like it. The job led me down many new pathways and allowed me to experience things most people don’t – a guided trip around the Queen’s ship Britannia, a similar experience on Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, and even a trip under the waves on a submarine in Larnaca.

It’s not just the experiences, but the people too; from speaking to the husband of a murder victim when the search was on for her to the incredible stories of former hostage Jackie Mann, to the CID chief who would always write a comment especially for us in English to the children taking part in an international speaking competition.

But perhaps what has really stayed with me was the opening day of the University of Cyprus. Blending in with the crowd, it was easy to get swept up in the start of something. Although we scoffed at how small it was – you could have thrown something from one side of the campus to the other – the first students were rightly proud of being there.

The first 500 students – mostly girls – were keen to create something from the ground up. Although local banks were on site to woo potential customers, there was none of the clubs and societies lobbying for attention that makes freshers week so noisy. Unperturbed, one teenage student told me “it is up to make them”.

That was September 1992. Eighteen years later I was back on campus one Sunday morning for my child to take part in a maths competition. My initial derision proved to have been misplaced. In the intervene a large institution had sprung up with cranes indicating the building work was nowhere near over. Buildings housing different departments, handily numbered for those visiting, sat on well-kept lawns and a large quadrangle provided ample space for coffees and chilling. I couldn’t even find the original bell tower.

While over the same timeline the University has attracted its fair share of controversy, it has also grown in repute, and was this summer the only Cyprus university to be included in the top 1,000 in the world on the Shanghai listing (somewhere between 600 and 700). It now has a complete programme of undergraduate courses and a growing number for postgrads, not to mention the Jean Nouvel designed library with almost half a million books which is well worth a look around if dropping a teenager off to ‘study’.

Although in common with many others around the world the university has recently moved all classes online because of the pandemic, its throngs of students are sure to return in the not too distant future. And I am grateful, and proud, that I am about to get up closer and more personally to its inner workings as my son will enroll there come September.

 

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