Private universities will reportedly “not hesitate to clash head-on with the government” over plans to allocate state-owned land to foreign universities for their establishment and operation in Cyprus.

According to newspaper Phileleftheros, the universities believe the government are allowing for the creation of unfair competition by effectively subsidising the establishment of foreign universities’ campuses in Cyprus.

They added that the move will lead to a “salami slicing” of Cyprus’ higher education.

They were unperturbed by the fact that the government has made allowances for local universities to take advantage of the land being allocated, pointing out that they have already made “millions” of euros’ worth of investments without receiving any aid from the state.

With this in mind, private universities are set to make representations to the relevant ministries and government departments, with the bill set to be brought to parliament in the near future.

At the same time, the government believes the education sector can be a “growing pillar” to attract investment and business activity to the island, boosting the economy.

The move to allow state-owned land to foreign universities comes off the back of an earlier decision to allow foreign universities to establish and operate campuses in Cyprus.

This new law differs from the current legislation, whereby foreign universities such as the University of Central Lancashire (UcLan) in Pyla and the American University of Beirut in Paphos offer degrees which either share curricula with their “motherships” or provide dual degree programmes.

In these cases, the degrees obtained by graduates are Cypriot degrees, released by institutions based in Cyprus.

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.

A spokesperson for the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (Dipae) told the Cyprus Mail in May that the move is a “game changer.

They went on to say that British universities may be “particularly interested” in the possibility, as it has become “increasingly difficult” for them to establish a presence outside the United Kingdom since the country left the European Union in 2020.

Education Minister Athena Michaelidou also extolled the plans’ virtues at the time, 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.

However, at a later House education committee meeting, Diko MP Chrysanthos Savvides raised concerns that representatives from stakeholder groups had said they had not been consulted.

He also said that other EU member states “impose stricter regulations” on the operation of foreign university branches than Cyprus would were the plans to become law.

Akel MP Christos Christofides called the ministry’s proposal “poorly prepared”, adding that it could negatively impact Cyprus’ higher education landscape.