Cyprus is well on its way to becoming a major educational hub in the Eastern Mediterranean, and is rapidly establishing an international reputation as a centre of excellence for scientific research and development.
Cyprus spends an impressive 6.67% of GDP on education, ranking the country in fifth place among the EU27, while almost 50% of Cypriots aged 30 to 34 have university degrees, putting the island well above the EU average of 40%. The country’s educational institutions maintain consistently high academic standards and attract students from all over the world.
Investing in Education
Since joining the EU in 2004, the number of foreign students studying in Cyprus has doubled and the country has ambitious plans to develop the island into a regional education centre. Today 30% of students, around 8,000, are foreigners – a figure which highlights the great opportunities that exist in Cyprus for the establishment of new international universities, colleges and research institutes. The widespread use of English, the application of EU standards, a safe environment and good weather, all make the island an ideal place for foreign students seeking a rigorous, value-for-money education. Over the past year Cypriot universities have been actively promoting themselves as providers of high-quality yet affordable tertiary education. President Anastasiades underlined his government’s determination to build on this reputation by outlining plans to enable more tertiary courses to be offered in English and for the creation of an institutional framework to attract foreign postgraduate students.
The island has eight universities offering a wide range of courses and degree programmes. The oldest of these is the University of Cyprus, which teaches mainly in Greek. The University’s partner institution, Cyprus University of Technology, aims to bridge the gap between pure and applied research and to forge close ties with Cypriot commerce and industry. The government also provides state funding for the Open University of Cyprus, as part of its commitment to lifelong learning. Cyprus also boasts a number of private universities, the oldest of which are the University of Nicosia, the European University in Cyprus and Frederick University. The University of Nicosia launched the island’s first degree programme in medicine, the result of a unique collaboration with St George’s Medical School at the University of London. In October 2012, the first British university to be established on the island, the University of Central Lancashire – Cyprus (UCLAN), accepted its first students. UCLAN-Cyprus offers courses in business, law and the sciences and provides students with a unique opportunity to study in both Cyprus and the UK. Another relatively new university is Neapolis, located in Paphos, which attracts both foreign and home-grown students.
When it comes to science and technology, Cyprus punches way above its weight. This was dramatically highlighted in 2014 by an innovative new global ranking scale, which assesses nations by their contribution to the good of society and humankind. According to the Good Country Index, compiled from UN and World Bank data, Cyprus ranks an astonishing 3rd out of 125 countries for its contribution to science and technology relative to its GDP. The recent discovery of offshore hydrocarbons in Cyprus has also prompted a new collaboration between the University of Nicosia and the Mediterranean Institute of Hydrocarbons Technology (MIHT). Plans are underway to develop a comprehensive training programme designed to provide well-qualified personnel capable of filling the thousands of posts that are expected to arise from the exploitation of the gas fields. Collaboration with international educational institutions is a priority to ensure appropriate level knowledge transfer and for Cyprus to be developed into a hydrocarbon research base. Historically, research and development (R&D) has been low in Cyprus compared with the rest of Europe. However, the economic challenges of recent years have prompted an increased appreciation of ways in which research can generate new models of economic development and its potential to cultivate a knowledge-based economy in Cyprus.
President Anastasiades recently underlined his commitment to maximising the commercial potential of research and innovation and his faith in the ability of Cypriot enterprises to benefit from the knowledge transfer opportunities provided by EU-funded research initiatives. There is a renewed impetus towards the development of such opportunities, and employers’ organisations and research consultancies have agreed to collaborate in an effort to capture more EU research funds. Over the past six years, Cyprus harnessed nearly €80 million of EU funding for Cypriot-led research projects, but there is scope for this figure to increase if Cypriot funding bids are simplified and co-ordinated.
The highly regarded Cyprus Institute (CyI) a non-profit science and technology research and educational institution, is at the forefront of much of the R&D conducted on the island today. CyI has close links with the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a collaboration which has produced ground-breaking work on the production of solar-generated electricity and methods of monitoring climate change. In recognition of its growing international reputation, CyI was recently selected to play a leading role in an ambitious 10-year international initiative on global sustainability called Future Earth, which will attempt to co-ordinate new, interdisciplinary approaches to research sustainable development and the management of the transition to sustainability. CyI will act as a regional hub, managing the participation of the Middle East and North African scientists in the programme.
An Expanding Knowledge Hub
Government and private sector investment, combined with careful strategic planning, has produced impressive results. Renewed emphasis on research and development and the cultivation of a knowledge-based economy has resulted in the production of innovative research across a range of disciplines, and the consolidation of the island’s role as an expanding knowledge hub for the Eastern Mediterranean.