Student housing is of great importance to the University of Cyprus (UCy), rector Tassos Christofides said on Wednesday at the House education committee, which continued debating the university’s budget for 2024.

Christofides’ statements followed allegations that the university had been bribed by developers to delay student housing projects.

It cannot be acceptable to make unfounded accusations of bribery and damage the dignity of the employees of the University of Cyprus,” he told the committee.

Christofides said that written answers have already been given by the university to the MPs of the committee, stressing the excellent cooperation that the University of Cyprus has with the education and finance ministries.

The committee head and Diko MP Pavlos Mylonas raised the issue of the existence of a strategic plan on the part of the education ministry over “where we want to take the universities by 2030”, on the interconnection of the University of Cyprus with the labour market and on whether there is an evaluation and control of the expenditure carried out by the academic institution.

Other MPs at the meeting raised the issue of housing at the university and the need to create a second raft of residences.

In response, Christofides said that the dormitories will proceed, noting that “it is the main concern of the university”.

He added that huge efforts have been made to find funding, noting that an agreement has been reached with two major banks, the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank to finance 50 per cent of the project each.

He noted that some additional consultations need to be done and said that the budget has been submitted to the finance ministry and the ministry’s position is expected.

Christofides said: “The residence halls are of great importance for the University of Cyprus.”

He added that the university also considers them as a strategic tool for attracting foreign students as well.

He noted that the second phase of the dormitories was planned to include 730 rooms but due to the delay, a request has been submitted to the finance ministry for approval of 900 rooms.

He stated that the budget now stands at €91 million and this is due to the increase in rooms but mainly due to the increase in construction costs.

Asked when the dormitories will be ready, Christofides replied that “this depends on when we get the green light and when the time-consuming procedures are completed”.

He stated that the procedures should be strict but the timeframes should be shortened and there should be better and efficient execution of the projects.

Last week, Dipa MP Alekos Tryfonides was dissatisfied with the explanation by the university on the dormitories and launched a bribery claim.

He also said that he would send a letter to the auditor-general.

He cited complaints received from the public during last year’s university budget discussion, alleging that specific individuals within the university received bribes to halt the construction of more student housing, thus forcing students to rent privately and benefitting developers.

Tryfonides urged anyone with proof of the matter to submit it to the police and called for an investigation by the audit office to verify the allegations. He emphasised that even without proven bribery, potential negligence by the university in not constructing additional student housing should be examined.