WENR, November/December 2003: Cyprus
nder the 1960 Constitution, education is the responsibility of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities separately.
Higher education in the Republic of Cyprus is provided by public and private institutions. Private providers of tertiary education operate under The Schools of Higher Education Laws, which were enacted between 1996 and 2003. A law enacted in 1987 regulates the establishment, control and operation of tertiary institutions. According to this law, all private tertiary institutions have to register with the Ministry of Education and Culture. However, registration does not guarantee recognition of their degrees. The credentials awarded by private, tertiary-education institutions are recognized only if the corresponding programs of study have gained accreditation. The system is binary, with university-level education offered by the University of Cyprus (established in 1992) and a number of private institutions. Professional and technical-level instruction is provided by private institutions and five state-recognized colleges.
In Northern Cyprus (Turkey), there are very few private institutions. The University of the Eastern Mediterranean conducts all undergraduate courses in English, which are accredited by the Higher Education Council (Yok) of the Republic of Turkey. The four other universities — the University of Lefke, Near East University, International American University and Cypriot International University — also teach in English. Only International American University is recognized by the Cypriot government.
1. Easily Readable and Comparable Degrees
• Cyprus has signed and ratified the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications.
• The Cypriot Council for the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications (KYSATS) acts as the country’s ENIC/NARIC authority for the evaluation and recognition of foreign credentials.
• The diploma supplement is currently under implementation and follows the model developed by the European Commission, Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES. Most institutions were required to start using the diploma supplement this semester.
2. Degree Structure
• The degree structure at the University of Cyprus, the only institution with full accreditation, is based on three main cycles.
Stage I: The undergraduate cycle normally lasts four years, but may be extended to six years in special cases, and leads to a Ptychio (bachelor’s degree).
Stage II: The graduate cycle takes 18 months to three years and leads to a Metaptychiako (master’s degree). Some private colleges offer a short graduate master’s program.
Stage III: The doctoral cycle has a minimum duration of four semesters and leads to a Didaktoriko (doctorate).
• In an effort by the ministry of education and culture, for a common language in awarding qualifications, all private institutions of higher education have adopted the following framework of qualifications: one year – certificate; two years – diploma; three years – higher diploma; four years – bachelor.
3. Credit Transfer
• The University of Cyprus and a number of private tertiary institutions adopted the national credit-point system at their inception.
• All programs at the University of Cyprus are modular and based on credits. The credit-point system corresponds to 15 credits for a semester and 30 credits for a full academic year. Credits are based on contact hours, i.e., one credit for a weekly 50-minute lecture, which conflicts with the European Credit Transfer System’s (ECTS) student workload-based system.
• Neither a law nor a decree makes the use of the national credit system compulsory. However, internal regulations at the University of Cyprus have required the use of the national credit system in all departments and at all levels since 1992.
• The University of Cyprus advocates that one institutional credit equals two ECTS credits. It is expected that all higher education institutions will eventually adopt the credit system (1 UoC credit = 2 ECTS credits) upon the country’s entry to the European Union (EU) in 2004.
• A stated goal of the university is to apply ECTS credits to all programs as both a transfer and an accumulation system. However, the university warns that it has not yet validated its 2:1 credit equivalency hypothesis against the student-workload requirement stated in the Bologna Declaration.
• According to the Ministry of Education, “free mobility of students, educators, researchers and professionals is extremely important and timely relevant to the national priorities and concerns of Cyprus, which fights consistently against isolation imposed by nature and size.”
• Students and lecturers from private institutions are more mobile than their peers from public institutions because of the “numerous clauses” in the laws that limit transfer of students from public institutions.
• The general exchange rules permit undergraduate students to pursue foreign credits abroad for up to two semesters; master’s students for one semester and doctoral students for up to a year, although the ministry believes this needs to be extended.
• It should be noted that a large number of Cypriot nationals pursue tertiary education abroad because, historically, there has not been a wide range of tertiary-level options available domestically.
• Since 1997, Cypriot institutions of higher education have been participating in the ERASMUS program.
• A main obstacle to further mobility, especially toward incoming students, is the perceived language barrier that results from Greek instruction at the University of Cyprus. To overcome this, the university has introduced an intensive Greek-language program for foreign students. In all private and most other public institutions of higher education, this is not a problem because the language of instruction is English.
5. Quality Assurance
• The authority on quality assurance and accreditation in Greek Cyprus is the Council for Educational Evaluation and Accreditation (SEKAP), which commenced operations in 1993.
• Council members are appointed directly from recommendations by the minister of education. The organization’s functions include appointing external teams for the evaluation of programs from private institutions of higher education, and making final decisions based on the evaluators’ recommendations.
• Private schools of tertiary education often link with U.S. and British universities to provide training toward degrees. In most cases, their examinations are associated with overseas examination bodies and institutions. They also award their own degrees and diplomas. The new law on private institutions requires registration of so-called Private Schools of Tertiary Education (PSTEs). Under this law, awards made by educational institutions abroad in collaboration with a PSTE are not recognized by the Ministry of Education. The end qualification is recognized by the Ministry of Education only if the program of study is accredited. Accredited programs are re-evaluated every four years.
• The standards in higher education are set by public institutions. Quality-assurance procedures at the University of Cyprus include periodic evaluations of each department by a three-member committee of external assessors, an institutional evaluation by the European University Association, continuous self-evaluation on the basis of various indices and external independent evaluation on a regular basis.
6. Promotion of European Dimensions in Higher Education
• The University of Cyprus has set up a framework for joint master’s programs with other European universities. There is one such program already in operation, and others are under development.
• The law has taken a firm stand against unreliable providers of transnational education, with the result that it is difficult to offer degrees in cooperation with higher-education institutions abroad. Steps are being taken to ensure that this kind of cooperation is established by the time Cyprus joins the EU.
— Nick Clark
• Survey on Master Degrees and Joint Degrees in Europe, Christian Tauch and Andrejs Rauhvargers, September 2002
• The State of Implementation of ECTS in Europe, European University Association, October 2002
• Diploma Supplement – State of Implementation, European Commission, June 2003
• Lisbon Convention Status Reports, Council of Europe, Aug. 29, 2003
• Towards the Creation of a European Higher Education Area, Ministry of Education and Culture, Aug. 19, 2003
• International Guide to Qualifications in Education, The British Council, 1998
• The University of Cyprus System of Education: Its Compliance to the Bologna Declaration and Future Actions, April 30, 2003
• EHEA and ERA: The Challenges Put Forward by the University of Cyprus, Sept. 29, 2003