The ombudswoman said Thursday she has asked the Limassol-based university of technology (Tepak) to reverse a decision banning unvaccinated students from physically attending classes saying it was discriminatory.

Maria Stylianou Lottides told Alpha television said other universities in the EU and the University of Cyprus, which adopted alternative methods, did not see a rise in infections but rather a rise in student vaccinations.

“It seems at the end of the day that persuading people to vaccinate is far stronger than any indirect coercion,” she said.

Tepak had decided before the new semester to only allow vaccinated and recovered students to physically attend classes.

The decision was met with strong opposition from student unions but a month later, in September, university said the number of students attending courses in-person had reached 70 per cent.

Tepak said 1,518 out of 2,168 undergraduate and postgraduate students physically participated in the courses. Around 90 per cent of those were vaccinated, and the rest had recovered from Covid within the last six months.

At the same time the share of vaccinated in academic staff exceeded 95 per cent and among administrative staff it was over 85 per cent.

Lottides said students had been offered an alternative way, remote learning, but Tepak was a technological institution and lab attendance was necessary to secure a degree.

“This was said by the rector himself, that a student cannot graduate if they do not attend labs and this was something that was being examined, whether they could attend in the second semester,” Lottides said.

Lottides said her report was binding. The two sides are expected to meet on Monday to discuss changes to the protocol during the second semester.

“It ought to comply because it became clear that internet teaching was not effective and in essence students did not have access to learning,” Lottides said. “If that had been accomplished then we would not be talking about discrimination in education and mainly the labs that were inaccessible.”