Cabinet’s decision earlier this week greenlighting the amendment of a law to allow foreign university branches to operate in Cyprus could be a ‘game changer’ for the island’s tertiary education, officials told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday.

According to the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (Dipae), the legislative change will allow for foreign universities to open and establish fully operational institutions in Cyprus.

This is radically different from the way other foreign tertiary education institutions currently operate in Cyprus,” a Dipae spokesperson told us.

“Currently, institutions like UcLAN or the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Paphos offer degrees that either share curricula with their ‘motherships’ or provide dual degree programmes. However, all degrees obtained from such institutions in Cyprus are Cypriot degrees, released by universities established on the island,” the spokesperson explained.

The proposed legislative change will allow foreign universities to establish a presence and operate independently on the island, awarding degrees from their countries of origin.

“Let’s say, for example, Imperial College wants to open a branch in Cyprus,” the spokesperson said. “Provided the law will pass in the House, they will be allowed not only to do that but to award fully British degrees. It is a game changer.”

A source at the education ministry’s department of higher education also confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that foreign universities would be allowed to establish official branches on the island.

At the moment, all universities in Cyprus that share their curricula or even their name with foreign ones are not branches, but autonomous institutions.

“To give an example, the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Paphos is now a separate entity from the actual one in Beirut. The new legislation will allow for foreign universities to establish official branches of their own institutions,” the source said.

“British universities are particularly interested in this possibility since, after Brexit, it became increasingly difficult to establish a presence outside the UK,” the Dipae spokesperson added. “Of course, that will happen provided the legislative change will pass in the House. At the moment, details are still being ironed out.”

Education Minister Athena Michaelidou stressed the benefits of the amended legislation, saying they align with the government’s broader efforts to upgrade and improve the quality of higher education in Cyprus.

“The amendment modernises the legislation, promotes the internationalisation of tertiary education, and enhances its quality,” she said.

Michaelidou explained that the process will be governed by specific criteria, oversight, and continuous monitoring through Dipae, similar to the procedures for establishing universities in Cyprus.

“This amendment paves the way for further competitiveness and quality assurance in higher education.”

Regarding which countries are interested in establishing universities in Cyprus, Michaelidou noted interest from specific universities in Greece and other countries in the region, but did not provide more details.

“Once the legislative amendment is passed by the House, we will have concrete data to discuss,” she concluded.

From the minister’s remarks, it’s inferred that the foreign universities that could operate branches here involve institutions from both EU and non-EU countries.