Males who have not completed their military service or who have secured an army deferment for reasons other than their college studies may not apply for a state scholarship, the government has clarified.

The government made its current policy known, in response to a complaint voiced by Akel MP Andreas Kafkalias. The lawmaker had written to the finance minister – responsible for state scholarships – relaying complaints he received from a number of males who had been barred from applying to the State Scholarships Foundation.

Kafkalias claimed these individuals are being subjected to discrimination, and called on the finance minister to clarify government policy.

Scholarships and related benefits range from €3,000 to €8,000 a year.

Responding, Finance Minister Makis Keravnos confirmed that males not having finished their stint in the military, or who secured a deferment for reasons other than their studies, are not eligible for a scholarship. This, it’s understood, even includes individuals with top academic scores.

The minister went on to cite the applicable regulation. Males eligible to apply for a state scholarship are only those who have completed their military obligations or who have been lawfully exempted from the same.

Those eligible to apply are males who have finished their stint with the National Guard, that is, obtained a final discharge; or been deemed unfit to serve for health reasons (final discharge); or who received a temporary discharge, with permission from the defence minister, in order to study at institutes of higher learning either here or overseas.

Others eligible to apply for a scholarship are those currently serving in the military, have less than two months to complete their army stint and have enrolled in an institute of higher education in Cyprus or abroad, and the start of the academic year occurs before the completion of their military service (temporary discharge).

Likewise eligible are male graduates of high school who have not fulfilled their military obligations but who have secured placement in an institute of higher education as at the date of examination of their application. In these cases, the granting of the scholarship will be suspended, and the scholarship will be granted once the person has completed his military service.

The tightening of the regulations is part of a crackdown on deferments and draft dodging.

For example, under a law recently passed, the Cyprus Sports Organisation may now decline to issue health cards or else revoke health cards issued to male athletes who had obtained a temporary discharge from the military for being unfit to serve for reasons of disability, or who secured such a discharge for a physical or mental ailment. Without a health card, athletes may not take part in competitive games.

This was done to discourage many who sought to game the system.