Cyprus

Cyprus is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean. The vast majority of graduates of upper secondary education continue their studies at tertiary level of education, either in Cyprus or abroad. According to official data of the Statistical Service of Cyprus (CYSTAT), the total percentage in 2009/10 was 76%, of which 38% in Cyprus and 38% abroad. Higher education in Cyprus is provided at university and non-university level, in public and private institutions of higher education. In the academic year 2012/13, there are three state and five private universities in operation, while at the non-university level there are five public and twenty-five private institutions in operation. Overall responsibility for the higher education sector lies with the Ministry of Education and Culture, except for the public non-university level institutions which come under the remit of other ministries. 

RegionSouthern Europe
CapitalNicosia  
LanguageGreek
Turkish
Population1,189,265
Expenditure on higher education3,5 %
Unemployment7,9 %
EuroUniversities in top 1000
EuroUniversities in top 2500
EuroUniversities in top 5004
EuroUniversities in top 100012
Students51,400
Foreigner students51,6 %
Enrollment rate in higher education75,4 %

Public universities include the University of Cyprus, established in 1989 by Law 144/1989; the Open University of Cyprus, established in 2002 by Law 234(I)/2002; and, the Cyprus University of Technology, established in 2003 by Law 198(I)/2003. The official languages of the universities are Greek and Turkish, the official languages of the Republic of Cyprus. Public universities offer programmes at Batchelor, Master and Doctoral level. The Open University offers short courses in the lifelong learning sector as well.   

Private universities include the 109(I)/2005 is the governing legislation for private universities, providing for their establishment, operation and control. Private universities offer programs at Bachelor, Master and, from 2010, Ph.D. level. The language of instruction is Greek or English.

Non-university level public institutions include the Forestry College, the Mediterranean Institute of Management, the Higher Hotel Institute of Cyprus, the Tourist Guides School and the Police Academy. They are operating under different ministries, which are fully responsible for the organization and the regulation of each institution. The general aim of each institution is to train professionals in their respective fields, in order to satisfy the needs of the local industry in Cyprus. The language of instruction is Greek or English.

Non-university level private institutions are registered with the Ministry of Education and Culture which is responsible for their supervision. The establishment, operation, and control of private institutions is governed by Law 67(I)/1996. Private institutions offer vocational and academic programs at various levels of study, such as the Certificate level (one-year duration), the Diploma level (two-year duration), the Higher Diploma level (three-year duration), the Bachelor level (four-year duration) and the Master level (one-year or two-year duration). Fields of study cover Secretarial Studies, Business Administration, Banking, Accountancy, Hotel Management, Computers, and Engineering. The language of instruction is Greek or English.

The organization of the academic year for each institution of higher education is provided in the respective governing Law. In the case of public universities, it is decided by the University Council. The schedule of classes of the programs of study of each public non-university level institution is determined by the Minister responsible, based on the recommendation of the Council of the institution. As for private institutions, either of a university or non-university level, the organization of the academic year is governed by internal regulations set by the Council of the institution. In most of the cases, the academic year begins on 1st September and ends on 15th July. It is normally structured in two semesters, the first starting in September and ending with exams in January, and the second starting in January/February with exams in May. 

Higher education policy objectives, as expressed in official documents of the Ministry of Education and Culture are mainly two: To fulfill the local needs for higher education and to establish Cyprus as a regional center for education and research.  The Government’s research expenditure target, as expressed in the Strategic Development Plan 2007-2013, was to reach 1% of GDP by 2010 with the ultimate goal of achieving the Lisbon Strategy goal of 3% at a later stage with the contribution of the private sector.  

The higher education system in Cyprus is shaped by the European Higher Education Area as outlined by the Bologna Process. In line with the Bologna main objectives, the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and the Diploma Supplement are used by all public universities and most of the other institutions. Two independent bodies are responsible for quality assurance – the Council for Educational Evaluation and Accreditation(SEKAP), which is responsible for the evaluation and accreditation of programs of study of non-university level private institutions in Cyprus, and the Cyprus Council for the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications (KYSATS), which is responsible for the recognition of qualifications awarded by institutions of higher education in Cyprus and abroad.

Student enrollment

According to the Ministry of Education and Culture, 35551 students were enrolled in universities and 8.895 students were enrolled in other institutions of tertiary education during the academic year 2016-2017. The number of foreign students has increased during recent years to a total of 21.093. Business Administration is the most popular degree in the Bachelor’s degree, Special Education and Business Administration in the Master’s degree and Science of Education in the Doctorate degree.

Examinations in Distance Learning Programs 

The Council of the Quality Assurance and Certification Body of Higher Education (Φορέας Διασφάλισης και Πιστοποίησης της Ποιότητας της Ανώτερης Εκπαίδευσης – Δι.Π.Α.Ε.) at its 32nd Session, held on July 2 and 3, 2018, decided and informed the higher education institutions offering distance learning programs that all courses in a distance program should have a final examination which students have to take at certified training centers in Cyprus or abroad. 

Mapping Higher Education for the Academic Year 2018-2019

The Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture has mapped Higher Education of Cyprus for the academic year 2018-2019.

The total numbers of students by degree level were as follows:

Fifty-one thousand eighty-six (51.086) people were studying in Higher Education institutions of which 38,997 were in Universities and 12,089 in Tertiary Education institutions.

In Tertiary Education, 4730 students were enrolled in programs of duration 1-3 years of study.

At the undergraduate level 20,439 students were enrolled in Universities and 5891 in Tertiary Education. At the graduate level 17188 students were enrolled in Universities and 1305 in Tertiary Education. At PH.D. programs, 1370 students were enrolled in Universities and 73 students in Tertiary Education.

Bachelor

Branches of Study

Bachelor programmes of study are offered by public and private universities. Some non-university level private institutions also offer Bachelor programmes of study. The expected duration of studies for a Bachelor’s degree is four years (eight semesters) except for Medicine with twelve semesters required. The ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) is applied by all public and private universities, with a number of at least 240 ECTS required for a student to graduate (one credit unit corresponding to 25-30 working hours of the course per semester).

Most of the Bachelors are disciplinary programmes offered by a Department of the university/institution. However, universities may allow for the establishment of interdisciplinary programmes proposed by interested Departments, provided that they have the approval of the Senate and the respective Faculties. As part of their 240 ECTS, students are usually required to attend a number of courses on Foreign Languages. 

Bachelor programmes are offered within the following study fields: Humanities; Pure and Applied Science; Social Science and Education; Economics and Management; Letters; Engineering and Technology; Health Science; Medicine; Technological Science; Geotechnical Sciences and Environmental Management; Law; Fine and Applied Arts.   

Admission Requirements

All three public universities follow a policy of restricted numbers of admission, which are set annually by the Council of the university and are approved by the Council of Ministers upon recommendation of the Minister of Education. Admissions to the undergraduate level of studies at the University of Cyprus and the University of Technology of Cyprus are based on the system of entrance examinations, namely the Pancyprian Examinations, which are set every June by the Ministry of Education and Culture according to the provisions of the relevant law. In order to be eligible for the examination, applicants must be Cypriot citizens with at least one Cypriot parent. They must also have a school-leaving certificate either from a lyceum, a technical school or a recognised private secondary school.

A small percentage of the total number of admissions is set on special criteria. These apply, amongst others, to Cypriot applicants of special categories (e.g. children of missing persons as a result of the Turkish invasion, persons with special needs, mature students); Greeks of the diaspora and Cypriots who belong to specific religious or ethnic groups; Turkish Cypriots; and, international students.

Admissions to the Open University of Cyprus are based on predetermined criteria and not on written examinations. Prospective students submit their applications online and on the basis of the set criteria they are ranked by an automated system of evaluation. In order to be eligible to apply to a course at the undergraduate level of studies, prospective students must be graduates of secondary level education and have a good knowledge of Greek. In addition, they must be able to adequately operate a personal computer and use the Internet. Ranking criteria include grades and number of years elapsed since graduating from secondary education, knowledge of foreign (European) languages, post secondary level diplomas and unemployment.

Admissions to private universities or private non-university level institutions are controlled by the Private Universities ( Establishment, Operation and Control ) Law (N. 109(I)/2005). A leaving certificate from a recognised school of secondary education or an equivalent qualification acquired in Cyprus or abroad, is usually required for admission to the Bachelor level of studies.

Curriculum

At the university level, the structure and nature of the curricula are determined by the Departmental Board of the University Department involved and they are approved by the Senate and the Council of the University.

Private non-university level institutions submit their courses and curricula to the Council for Educational Evaluation and Accreditation-SEKAP for approval.   

Teaching Methods

Teaching methods and materials are decided on by the members of academic staff of Departments, either individually or in collaboration. Classes usually take the form of a lecture, tutorial or laboratory work, but they may also take the form of a seminar or exercise, according to the nature and requirements of the particular programmes of study. New technology is widely used. The Open University employs distance education methodology relying on digital technology, but without totally omitting face-to-face interaction. Other institutions also increasingly offer courses on the basis of distance learning.   

Progression of Students

Student progression from one year/stage of studies to the next is based on the internal regulations of each institution. Students are promoted on the precondition that they have obtained at least the minimum pass mark (usually 50 %) in all prescribed evaluations and have attended at least a minimum required percentage of the programme (ranging from 75 % to 100 % in the different institutions).

At the University of Cyprus, if a student fails a compulsory subject, he/she has to repeat the subject until he/she passes (within the maximum time limit). If a student fails an elective subject, he/she can repeat the subject once. If the student fails the elective subject a second time, he/she must select an alternative elective subject. A student is removed from the Register of Students of the University if he/she is not able to complete the requirements of the programme of studies within the maximum time limit, which is twelve semesters for undergraduate studies. A student will also be removed from the Register of Students if he/she is absent for one semester and the University authorities are unable to contact him/her.

Similar provisions are followed for student progression at the Cyprus University of Technology.

Postponement of studies at the Open University may last up to two years, but only after successful completion of at least one Module. Removal from the Registry of Students of the Open University occurs when a student either decides to stop studying at the OUC, does not register for at least one Module (subject to the conditions of postponement of study), or has failed to successfully complete a Module for the second time.

Employability

Promoting the employability of higher education graduates is a policy priority for the Government. The Human Resource Development Authority (HRDA), a semi-governmental organisation whose mission is to create the necessary prerequisites for the planned and systematic training and development of human resources in Cyprus, is currently running two programmes concerning young tertiary graduates’ employability. The Scheme for Job Placement of Young Unemployed Tertiary Education Graduates in Enterprises/Organisations aims at giving the opportunity both to young graduates to gain work experience and to enterprises to make productive qualified manpower. The participants are offered a weekly training allowance of 125 Euro by the HRDA. The Scheme for the Employment of Young Tertiary Education Graduates in Enterprises/Organisations aims both at the improvement of the enterprises’ competitiveness and giving opportunity to young graduates to gain work experience. In the framework of the programme the HRDA grants a subsidy to the employers. Further information is available on the HRDA’s website.      

Careers Offices operating in higher education institutions provide information on employment and career prospects. Although no official responsibility is taken by the institutions for the employment of their graduates, the guidance and counselling that are on offer very often lead to the placement of graduates in appropriate positions in their field in the public or private sectors.

Student Assessment

Every institution of higher education has an organised system of student assessment. Students are assessed internally by the teaching staff of the institution. Assessment methods include written and/or oral examinations at the mid-term or the end of a semester, continuous assessment focused on the student’s active participation, laboratory exercises, written or practical assignments, projects and dissertations. Written examinations are set by all the institutions.

Certification

Certification is the responsibility of each institution of higher education. Upon successful completion of the programme of studies the institution awards the Bachelor degree. The award of a Bachelor degree at the university level is subject to the approval of the Board of the Department.

The degrees of public institutions are recognised by KYSATS (The Cyprus Council for the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications). The degrees of private institutions are recognised on the precondition that the relevant programmes of studies have been accredited by SEKAP (Council for Educational Evaluation-Accreditation).

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of study

Second cycle (Master) programmes are offered by public and private universities as well as non-university level private institutions of higher education. Master (MA and MSc) programmes can be offered by a university/institution department individually, by two or more departments or in cooperation with other universities/institutions. Students can study either full-time or part-time. A full-time student is one who attends a minimum of 21 ECTS per semester (1 credit unit corresponding to 25-30 working hours of the course per semester). Requirements for completion of a Master degree usually include:

• Full-time attendance for a minimum of three semesters (maximum duration of attendance set at eight semesters);

• Successful completion of 90-120 ECTS in taught lessons;

• In case that the programme requires a dissertation, the number of ECTS allocated to its completion should not exceed ½ of the total number of ECTS required for the whole programme.   

Master programs are offered in all study fields covered by  Bachelor programs, as they were detailed in section 7.2: First Cycle Programmes.  

Admission requirements

All three public universities follow a policy of restricted numbers of admission, which are set annually by the Council of the university and are approved by the Council of Ministers upon recommendation of the Minister of Education. A university-level education is a prerequisite for admission to the Master level of education. Additional criteria are set by the public universities, such as academic ranking, letters of recommendation, personal interview at the discretion of each Department and possible additional criteria that a Department may adopt. Admission criteria set by the Open University of Cyprus also include years elapsed since obtaining a first degree and working experience relevant to the course. Selection of students is made by the institutions themselves.

Curriculum

Postgraduate studies at the university level are subject to the Postgraduate Studies Regulations of each university. The postgraduate programs of each Department are supervised by a three-member Postgraduate Programmes Committee appointed by the Departmental Board for a two-year term. The department appoints an Academic Supervisor for every student in the Postgraduate Programme, who will offer guidance to the student throughout the program of study. In case that the program of studies requires the writing of a dissertation, a Research Counselor is assigned to every student. 

Progression of students

During his/her studies, the student’s average grade must be at least 5, the maximum grade is 10. If in a semester, the student’s average grade is lower than 5, the student is placed on probation. If in the following semester the student’s average grade remains below 5, the student’s case is discussed by the Departmental Board and the possibility of expulsion from the Postgraduate Programme is raised.

In the case of failure in a postgraduate course, a Master’s degree student is allowed to repeat it once. A second failure in the same course results in the expulsion of the student from the Postgraduate Programme. If a dissertation is rejected, the student is allowed to resubmit it once.

Employability

Careers Offices operating in higher education institutions provide information on employment and career prospects. Although no official responsibility is taken by the institutions for the employment of their graduates, the guidance and counseling that are on offer very often lead to the placement of graduates in appropriate positions in their field in the public or private sectors.

Student assessment

An organized system for student assessment is provided by the internal regulations of each institution. Students are assessed internally by the teaching staff of the institution. Student evaluation is the exclusive right of the individual teacher. Assessment methods include written and/or oral examinations at the mid-term or the end of a semester, continuous assessment focused on the student’s active participation, laboratory exercises, written or practical assignments, projects, and dissertations. Written examinations at the end of a semester are set in all cases. The minimum pass mark is usually set at 50%, e.g. 5 on a scale 0-10. In a Master’s program, some courses (not exceeding 25% of the taught part) may be evaluated on a pass/fail basis. Master dissertations are qualitatively evaluated as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Failed.  

Certification

Certification is the responsibility of each institution of higher education. Upon successful completion of the program of studies, the institution awards the Master’s degree. The award of a Master’s degree at the university level is subject to the approval of the Board of the Department. The degrees of public institutions are recognised by KYSATS. The degrees of private institutions are not recognised unless the relevant programmes of studies have been accredited by SEKAP. 

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

The organisation of doctoral studies

Currently, all faculties and departments of state universities offer doctorate programmes. Main branches of study include Humanities, Pure and Applied Sciences, Social Science and Education, Economics and Management, Law, Engineering, Letters and Health Sciences. The language of instruction must be one of the official languages of the universities (Greek and Turkish). A programme may be offered in another language, provided that it is offered in one of the official languages too. Postgraduate programmes offered in cooperation with other universities within an EU programme, e.g. Erasmus Mundus, can be offered in an international language without any precondition. 

Two Ph.D. programs in Education and a Ph.D., interdepartmental, program in Engineering are offered, since September 2010, by private universities in Cyprus. Also, the Cyprus Institute, a non-profit science and technology research, and educational institute, established in 2005, offers three doctoral programs approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture, in the following study fields: Computational Sciences; Digital Cultural Heritage; and, Environment and Atmospheric Sciences.  

Most of the doctoral programs on offer are three-year duration programs consisting of a taught part and a dissertation. They are based on the ECTS credit system with about 240 ECTS required for their completion, of which 120 will be earned through the research part of the program. The doctoral title is awarded following a successful submission and defense of an original dissertation constituting an important contribution to the particular discipline.

Admission requirements

All three public universities follow a policy of restricted numbers of admission, which are set annually by the Council of the university and are approved by the Council of Ministers upon recommendation of the Minister of Education. In order to apply for a PhD degree, prospective students must hold a Master’s degree in a related subject. Selection of students is made by the institutions themselves.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

Cypriots and EU citizens being full-time doctoral students in Cyprus are entitled to free healthcare in public hospitals. Students from out with the EU countries are obliged to arrange on their own for private insurance. 

Doctoral students are often put in priority as regards part-time or full-time appointments as researchers in research programs run by academic staff of the respective department. They may also be given teaching/tutoring duties under the supervision of a permanent academic staff of the institution.    

Supervision arrangements

Every student in a postgraduate program is assigned an Academic Supervisor who will offer guidance to the student throughout the program of study. Every doctoral student is assigned a Research Supervisor too. The Research Supervisor is appointed by the Board of the Department upon a recommendation of the Postgraduate Programmes Committee of the Department and he/she is responsible for guiding the student in his/her research and providing the necessary support and advice.

Employability

Careers Offices operating in higher education institutions provide information on employment and career prospects. No industrial staff is involved either in the development of course curricula or as external examiners in the assessment of students. 

Assessment

A Ph.D. title is awarded upon completion of the following course requirements:

• A minimum of 6 semesters duration of studies (the maximum course duration being 16 semesters);

• Success in a comprehensive examination until the fifth semester of studies, at the latest;

•  The successful defense of a doctoral thesis, which must be original and constitute an important contribution to the relevant knowledge field.

 Comprehensive examinations are set annually by the Department concerned, which is responsible for the content and the management of the examination.

The doctoral thesis must be defended, in an open 30-45 minute presentation, before a five-member examining Committee determined by the Board of the Department. If a Ph.D. dissertation is rejected, the candidate is allowed to resubmit it once. The conditions of resubmission are determined in writing by the Examining Committee.

Certification

Certification is the responsibility of each institution of higher education. Upon successful completion of the program of studies, the institution awards the Doctoral degree. The award of a Ph.D. degree at the university level is subject to the approval of the Senate of the university. The degrees of public institutions are recognized by KYSATS. The degrees of private institutions are not recognized unless the relevant programs of studies have been accredited by SEKAP. 

Organizational Variations

The Open University of Cyprus is dedicated to distance learning. Unlike the conventional university, students at the Open University have the opportunity to pursue their studies in a flexible way as regards place, time and pace.

Curricula are structured on modules and are based on the system of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Teaching methods are based on distance learning approaches relying on ICT technology.

The Open University is currently offering doctoral programs in Health Care Administration; Educational Sciences; Information Technology; Greek Culture; Greek Language and Literature; Theatre Studies; Environmental Management and Protection; and, Communication and Journalism. 

Mobility and Internationalisation

Cyprus has a tradition of internationalisation since its Independence, in 1960. Following Independence, Cyprus maintained close co-operation with international organisations, like UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Most of the public non-university level institutions of higher education were established as joint projects between the Cyprus government and these international organisations. 

Of much great importance for the island’s education system was the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, in 2004, which brought in focus the European and international dimension in education. Cyprus has not enacted any special legislative regulations regarding the introduction of the European and international dimension in education. However, both before and after accession the European dimension became a major strand of the government’s educational policy with important developments in this area, such as the adoption of the Eurydice project, in 1980; joining the Socrates Programme, in 1997, and its substitute, the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013; and, the signing of the Bologna Process, in 2001.

By signing the Bologna Process, Cyprus has signaled its support of the main objectives of the initiative, namely the increase in mobility and employability of European higher education graduates.

By signing the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) 2007-2013, Cyprus has secured participation in the Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig sub-programmes, as well as other related Actions. The aim of the LLP 2007-2013 is to give learning opportunities from childhood to old age and support projects and activities that foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between education and training systems within the EU. In order to enhance the management of the LLP 2007-2013, Cyprus set up an independent National Agency(Ίδρυμα Διαχείρισης Ευρωπαϊκών Προγραμμάτων Δια Βίου Μάθησης – ΙΔΕΠ) in 2007.

The government also set up the European Office of Cyprus (EOC) in May 2007. Its aim is to inform its members of developments and policies at the level of the European Union, as well as to support them to absorb funds from European grants. The European Office of Cyprus currently has nineteen member organisations and operates with two support centres, one in Nicosia and one in Brussels. On a daily basis, targeted information is promoted to members according to their areas of interest.

The European and international dimension in education has been further enhanced by the adoption of new legislation which permits public universities to offer, under certain preconditions, programmes in a foreign language as well as trans-university programmes of studies in a foreign language, such as the Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses or similar European programmes.

A number of bilateral or multilateral activities undertaken, either at school or the higher education level, involve real or virtual mobility. Real mobility programmes mainly take place at the higher education level.

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.