The state scholarships foundation should publish its announcements and application forms in English and Turkish as well as Greek, the ombudswoman recommended on Tuesday.

The announcement came after a complaint by a Turkish Cypriot student that not offering access to the resources in other languages was discriminatory, following the rejection of his application for a doctoral scholarship at the University of Cyprus (UCy) for the academic year 2021/2022.

The petitioner complained that although he managed to submit an application using online translation tools, the scholarship foundation rejected him in September 2022 because he did not present a valid ID, had not served in the national guard, and had completed his undergraduate studies at an institution unrecognised by the Republic.

The complainant told the commissioner he had submitted a Republic of Cyprus ID with his application, which the foundation could have requested; that he was not legally bound to serve in the national guard, nor could he have been able to complete military service under the law; and that his undergraduate studies were at a university accredited in Turkey.

A second Turkish Cypriot UCy doctoral student had also complained to the commissioner about the language issue.

The president of the foundation said the organisation’s board decided to continue publishing announcements and forms only in Greek, as is the common practice of most ministries, government departments and the broader public sector.

Following a review of relevant legislation, the Constitution, and jurisprudence, the commissioner’s office concluded that the scholarship foundation has no constitutional obligation to draft announcements or application forms in Turkish.

However, it forwarded its reservations to the foundation, about whether state scholarships in the Republic should be announced only in Greek considering not all Cypriot citizens are of Greek origin, and noting that EU citizens are also eligible to apply.

The civil registry and migration department issues applications in Turkish for specific purposes, and the welfare services make online information available in English, it noted.

The law governing the foundation’s establishment and operation allows non-Cypriot citizens to compete for scholarships, with specific provisions for EU citizens to compete on an “equal basis” with Cypriots.

Publishing announcements and applications for scholarships only in Greek undoubtedly creates difficulties for citizens from other states, the commissioner noted, as well as for Cypriot citizens who do not speak Greek, such as Turkish Cypriots, resulting in differential treatment and access.

The commissioner’s office recommended ensuring information be made available in English, and to also reconsider publishing announcements and applications in Turkish.

Finally, it suggested the foundation re-examine the complainant’s application for a doctoral scholarship at UCy.