Education Minister Athena Michaelidou said on Wednesday that the possible introduction of undergraduate programmes in the English language at Cypriot public universities is “being discussed”.

Speaking to CyBC radio, she pointed out that English language undergraduate programmes are already being offered at private universities across the country, and that the government “views the idea positively”.

She also referred to the possibility of removing the stipulation that the Pancyprian examinations be the only method by which one can be admitted to public universities’ undergraduate programmes.

“Now is the time to take a look at allowing other methods than the Pancyprian examinations. This would be done within the scope of upgrading our higher education and the four pillars about which I spoke yesterday,” she said.

She added that the move would aid the “branding” of the university, as well as the “internationalisation and promotion of the quality of this country’s higher education”.

Previous attempts to introduce English language undergraduate courses had garnered controversy, with the debate surrounding the possible introduction of English-language programmes and admittance of students with qualifications other than Pancyprian examinations having rumbled on for years.

One major point of contention has been the matter of Cypriot private school students, who have in the past found themselves effectively barred from entry to Cypriot public universities as their schools offered international qualifications, such as A levels, rather than Pancyprian examinations.

Ioanna Chrysovitsioti of the University of Cyprus’ Proodeftiki student union, which is linked to Akel, defended public universities’ current admission requirements to the Cyprus Mail.

“We must protect the Pancyprian examinations. For all their problems, they are the only way to ensure equality between different social and economic classes. Everyone is equal because everyone takes the same examinations, and it should stay that way,” she said.

However, she and her union said they were open to the possibility of English-language undergraduate programmes being offered at her university.

“We agree with the idea of having English language undergraduate programmes here,” she said.

“We do not have a problem with the idea, and neither do Akel. Our red line is simply that they must not introduce tuition fees for these programmes.”

“If they introduce tuition fees for such programmes, there is a possibility that they could use the premise of equality to later effectively use it as a back door to introduce tuition fees across the board,” she said.

Disy-linked student union the Protoporia’s vice president Lazaros Moutaphides found himself in agreement, speaking of how the addition of English language undergraduate programmes to the university’s repertoire “would shape the internationalisation and outward-facing nature of our university and contribute to its development”.

He added that such a move would allow more prospective students from Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean region to choose Cyprus.

However, he and the Protoporia have the opposite opinion to the Proodeftiki on the matter of admitting students who have sat examinations other than the Pancyprian examinations, as he said his union has “always been in favour” of the idea.