Cyprus – a small island with big ambitions

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Until 1989 there were no universities in Cyprus, today there are nine, three public and six private, as well as about fifty colleges of higher education.

Cyprus now has a number of titles it can do about its status as an education center – EU statistical service Eurostat says 58% of 30-34 year olds in Cyprus have an education qualification higher, above the EU average of 41%; IMD Global Talent Ranking places Cyprus 17th out of 63 countries for attracting, nurturing and retaining talent; the QS World University Rankings ranks Cyprus first in the region for the highest number of institutions per million population.

The EC’s 2021 European Innovation Scoreboard showed that Cyprus had the second highest performance increase among European countries and that Cyprus had increased by 55.4% in transnational education, thus becoming the first countries in the world for postgraduate UK TNS.

At the same time, in terms of research, there is an increasing number of collaborations between institutions and industry and centers of research excellence in fields ranging from the environment to genetics. A tangible element of this development is recorded by the level of funding that Cyprus has received from the European Horizon 2020 funding program. In 2018, Cyprus had received 90 million euros for 245 research projects, the highest amount of Horizon funding. 2020 per capita among all Member States.

“Cypriot universities offer internationally recognized study programs of the highest quality”

In terms of the overall number, the number of international students studying at higher education institutions in Cyprus increased by 36% between 2015/16 and 2018/19, from 17,601 to 27,388 students.

During the increase, the number of international students in Cyprus exceeded the number of Cypriot students for the first time, with 54.5% of students coming from both the EU and other non-EU countries. Europeans.

Neighboring Greece accounts for 62% of international students, followed by India and Nepal, which sent 4,267 and 1,486 students respectively. At the crossroads of three continents, Asia, Europe and Africa, Cyprus wishes to continue its growth and position itself resolutely on the HE map.

Why do international students come to Cyprus?

Despite a difficult past and an uncertain future, security is one of Cyprus’s main draws for foreign students. Its reputation for safety (in 2020, an insurance company ranked it fifth safest in the world) is mentioned repeatedly by educators at universities, colleges and international schools. Many also evoke the heat, that of the welcome and the weather, with an annual average temperature of 25 ° C and sunshine all year round.

A relatively low cost of living is also in the mix, but as some educators point out, all of those plus life points are an added bonus to the decisions today’s professional students make.

Christoforos Charalambous, Director of Administration and Finance – Vice President of the Academic Council of Frederick University (a private university operating from one campus in Nicosia, the capital, and another in Limassol) presents the results of what international students coming to Cyprus can expect.

“Cypriot universities offer internationally recognized study programs of the highest quality, most of which are taught in English … The excellence of Cypriot universities is reflected in international rankings such as Times Higher Education and U-Multirank,” says -he.

“In addition, there is a strong philosophy focused on students and providing a range of tailor-made student services, such as orientation programs, counseling center, career office, academic support, etc. It is important to note that they also offer funded student mobility programs (like Erasmus +) which allow students to combine studies or work experience at different European universities.

Another private university, the European University of Cyprus, offers “superior student accommodation options, international student mentors, psychological health and wellness support and an active student life,” according to the CEO Christoforos Hadjikyprianou.

At the undergraduate level, education, medicine (e.g. EUC has 850 medical and dental students, 75% of whom are mainly from Central and Northern Europe), law, IT and psychology are the most attractive to international students. At the postgraduate level, the MBA is popular, with the Open University of Cyprus offering it in Greek and English.

Other popular options are human resource management, electrical engineering, business studies, IT, biomedicine, AI, cybersecurity, and hotel management.

Attracting international students is about “solving a specific problem for a specific cohort,” according to Antonis Polemitis, CEO of the University of Nicosia.

For the University of Nicosia – whose student population fell from 95% Cypriots to less than 30% in a decade – the medical school started as a joint degree with St George’s University in London before becoming an entity in full fledged. Its placement locations include Sheba Medical Center in Israel, ranked among the top ten hospitals in the world.

In the case of the EUC – 45% of its 7,500 students are now foreigners – the first class (in 2013) of its medical school had an equal number of Cypriot and international students.

“It is a mark of the school’s extraordinary success in leading medical education, research and healthcare, that today, nearly a decade after its opening, [the school] attracts students from over 28 different countries, ”says Hadjikyprianou.

“Our admissions process has thus become more competitive and we have a very strong demand from abroad.

On the financial side, there is also a lot of movement and shaking. Hadjikyprianou believes that Cyprus will continue its ‘upward trajectory’ on the international education scene, and that the EUC is doing its part in the Eastern Mediterranean ”.

The weather is not Cyprus’s only selling point for international students. Photo: EUC

The EUC School of Business Administration’s research collaboration agreement with the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance at Cambridge Judge Business School is a good example, he says, which aims to “accelerate financial innovation and sharing of technological knowledge in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa and the Mediterranean region at large ”.

“Student data demonstrates success of Cyprus campaign to put island on the map”

In the financial field, the University of Nicosia is “the world’s leading university in the field of digital currency and blockchain”, according to Polemitis, with “the largest team in the world – professors and staff – focused on this project” .

Will Cyprus continue to develop as an education hub?

“The student data demonstrates the success of Cyprus’ drive to put the island on the map as an established higher education and research center in Europe,” says Pantelitsa Michael, Business Development Manager for Business Services. international education at the British Council Cyprus.

Over 13,600 students in Cyprus enrolled in so-called UK TNE courses in 2018/19, indicating an 81% increase since 2016-17 and “confirming Cyprus’s position among the fastest growing UK TNE markets to the world, ”she adds.

Although the signs are good, Polemitis knows that recruiting international students is “incredibly competitive with a golden age of choice for students”. Undergraduates appreciate a range of characteristics such as “residential experience, employability and a good campus” and that institutions need all of these to be successful, he suggests.

“Cyprus still needs bigger universities,” says Polemitis. “If everyone aggregates their relative strengths, over the next 5-10 years we will have a chance for an Ireland or New Zealand type situation where countries weren’t on the international education map and now they are. “

This is an abridged version of an article first published in The PIE Review.


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