Cyprus Ministers and MPs put their heads together on Wednesday to find ways of dealing with the UK’s decision to end home fee status for EU students from the 2021-22 academic year.
The matter was raised at the House education committee, in the presence of Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou, Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides, and a representative of the Defence Ministry.
Christodoulides and Prodromou detailed the efforts and contacts being made to effectively deal with the matter, acknowledging the hard work undertaken by local students who secured a spot at a UK university.
Christodoulides noted that he has already raised the matter with two UK government officials, who, he said, showed a willingness for dialogue, but not on the UK's decision to scrap student loans for European students.
All agreed on the need for clarification on the number of Cyprus students that were offered a position at a UK university, allowing the Cyprus government to effectively negotiate with the UK.
In 2018, a total of 8,865 Cypriot students were studying in the UK, Prodromou noted.
The main conundrum faced by male high school graduates that wish to study in the UK is the mandatory requirement to complete military service before moving on to further education, resulting in those that get accepted into a university, UK or otherwise, usually deferring their entry for a year.
Recent discussions on the matter touched on the possibility of postponing the military service requirement until after male students complete their studies, allowing those who were offered a position at a UK university for the coming academic year to take advantage of home fees.
But the Defence Ministry representative stressed that military service requirements cannot be postponed, as such a move would affect the operation of the National Guard.
The position stirred varying reactions among MPs, with some requesting that military service requirements are postponed, and others expressing concern over the differential treatment of some students.
Another possible solution discussed on Monday was the provision of state funding through a guarantee scheme to cushion the blow of UK university fees that are to skyrocket. While no concrete decisions were taken on the matter, participants did not rule this path out, and are expected to build on Wednesday's discussion in the coming period.
With the number of Cypriot students able to move on to UK universities expected to dwindle, local universities will be called to meet the new needs that will arise.
University of Cyprus Rector Tasos Christofides, who was present at the committee meeting, said the local university is able to absorb a small number of students that were planning to go to the UK, but noted that such transfers will depend on whether UCY offers courses that mirror their interests.