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Attracting all the talent out there and keeping it in Cyprus

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By Melissa Heckers,

Although prevented from doing so for many years, the island’s state universities are now keen to attract students from private schools who only have A level qualifications.

In addition to accepting students who have sat the Pancyprian exams, the University of Cyprus (UCy) and Tepak now allow private school graduates to continue their studies within their walls, having put in place various paths through which private school students in particular can apply using their international exam results.

Recognising private high school students account for around 20 to 25 per cent of school leavers on the island, acting Director of Academic Affairs and Student Welfares Services at UCy Kleanthis Pissarides asserts the university “is trying hard to offer solutions to children from private schools, we want to help, we want to attract the talent that’s out there… we want to keep these students in Cyprus and offer them a good place to study.”

There are now two avenues to applying to state universities: any student in Cyprus, regardless of whether they attend public or private high school, can sit the Pancyprian exams. These are in Greek. Or students can choose to apply through the results of their international examinations – A levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB). Here, specific requirements for each programme of study are required.

“With regards to international examinations,” says Pissarides, “there are actually three ways that one can get in.” The first applies for candidates who have a foreign or dual citizenship. “Children who have been residing in Cyprus for their whole life can get through this path given that they have at least dual citizenship,” adds Pissarides. Available places are announced in April and interested candidates can apply online the same month to begin their academic year in September.

The second path is for students who regardless of their citizenship can get into local public universities as transfer students from universities aboard. “Candidates who have secured a place in another university, for example in the UK, can apply for a transfer to the university of Cyprus even before they start their studies abroad,” explains Pissarides. “Say I’m a student in the last year of my high school, and I’ve applied to the UK to study. If I get a place in a British university then even before starting my studies in that university, I can ask for a transfer to the university of Cyprus and if I get accepted I begin my academic year as of September, in Cyprus”. Applications for this path begin in the first week of July.

The third path, which is the most recent and perhaps least complicated offered by both universities is through international examinations. “Once we finish the allocation of places offered through the Pancyprian Examinations, any places that remain available are offered to students who apply with the results of their international examinations,” explains Pissarides. Interested applicants can apply via this procedure at the end of August. Students are offered a place at the university if they are considered to meet the criteria set for each programme by each university.

These special paths, or special categories, as Director of Services for Academic Affairs and Student Welfare at Tepak Vasilis Protopapas says have been allocated a certain amount of seats above the amount for students taken in as a result of the Pancyprian Examinations. Offering interested students the opportunity to apply through international examinations is a mechanism put in place predominantly to assist students applying from private schools.

“These are two very different types of exams (Pancyprian vs international),” elaborates Pissarides. The Pancyprian exam is in Greek, whereas the A levels and the international exams are in the foreign language one is studying in… We appreciate that it’s very difficult for students attending private schools and being taught in English to take the Pancyprian examinations and we want to give access to local public universities to these children as well,” Pissarides said. “Pancyprian exams aren’t based on the private school curriculum,” adds Protopapas elaborating on the challenges of private school children sitting Pancyprian Examinations.

Having said that, both UCy and Tepak’s academic programmes are offered in Greek and therefore a good understanding of Greek is needed. “As a criterion we ask for a good knowledge of Greek which can be certified through an O or A level in Modern Greek depending on the programme of study,” says Pissarides. At Tepak, Protopapas says an interview with his university can define and qualify a student’s level of Greek. The only programmes currently offered which do not require Greek are the French, English and Turkish Studies programmes at UCy.

Acknowledging that to date few applicants have chosen to apply through international examinations, UCy and Tepak estimate the impact of Brexit and the pandemic may encourage a change in the demographics of applicants. “As one can imagine there will be an increasing demand for students to stay in Cyprus,” says Pissarides. “Given that the largest percentage of students from private schools go to the UK to study, we do expect that it will have an effect. As far as the pandemic is concerned, we’ve seen some effect but it hasn’t been very big in the sense that students and their parents appreciate the fact that the pandemic will be over eventually, hopefully and we will return to our steady state,” he adds.

Estimating how many seats are annually available after Pancyprian examination placement allocations are finalised is impossible, yet by law, 40 places are made available in addition to these places. “These are available to students with foreign or dual citizenship, and over and above those 40 we’ve got the seats available after the Pancyprian exams which depend on the year, the programme of study and vary quite a lot year by year,” concludes Pissarides.

  • Announcements for calls for applications are made on the university websites and social media as well as through the press. Applications can be made online with relevant announcements outlining application procedures and requirements


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