Cypriot students face post-Brexit dilemma

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Cypriot students should be looking at other alternatives as studying in Britain becomes close to impossible as costs are set to escalate post-Brexit, education experts advise.

A recent survey suggests that 9 out of 10 Cypriot students could avoid the UK altogether, while currently the UK traditionally sees 10,000 Cypriot students studying each year.

Cypriots wanting to go to British universities face higher tuition fees and can no longer apply for student loans.

Specialists advising students and their parents say they should start looking at other European universities, noting that losing out on studying at a UK university, although limits options, is not the end of the world.

“Cypriot, as well as other students from the EU, have a variety of options of good universities for which they do not need to spend a fortune on,” education expert Charalambos Papayiannis told the Financial Mirror.

A British government decision puts an end to privileges enjoyed by EU students from the academic year 2021-2022 while allowing each university to set their own tuition fees.

Last week, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “Following our decision to leave the EU, EU, other EEA and Swiss nationals will no longer be eligible for home fee status, undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learner financial support from Student Finance England for courses starting in the academic year 2021-22.”

UK and EU nationals currently pay tuition fees of up to £9,250 (€10,200 or US$11,500) per year for an undergraduate degree.

The fees for international students vary from between £10,000 (€11,000) and £38,000 (€41,900) depending on the university and the degree.

Despite Cyprus’ diplomatic efforts for Cypriot students to be treated as a special case, the picture on the ground does not seem to be altering.

Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and the Minister of Education Prodromos Prodromou briefed on Wednesday the House Education Committee on the government’s efforts while another issue arose involving male graduates who have to postpone their studies to do national service.

Prodromou said: “There is an issue with the students who have graduated this year but have enrolled with British universities for 2021-2022, as they must first fulfil their military obligations”.

This means that they will miss out on the last year EU students can benefit from lower tuition fees and loans.

The loans taken out this year cover the duration of the study period.

Cyprus Commissioner for Gender Equality, Iosifina Antoniou urged authorities to reach a bilateral agreement that would at least accommodate male student graduating from high school this year.

“This seems to be adversely affecting this year’s male high school graduates, who are required to serve 14-month military service, before being admitted to UK universities.

It is clear that this year’s male graduates will enter British universities on more adverse terms than their fellow female classmates,” said Antoniou in a written statement.

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry appears adamant on not granting some 750 male students affected, the option to postpone their military service until they complete their UK studies.

Education consultant Papayiannis, CEO of EuroStudies CY, told the Financial Mirror students will have to pay significantly higher tuition fees while being ineligible for student loans.

He said many UK universities have already decided to grant EU students scholarships equal to the difference in tuition fees after the increase is imposed, essentially keeping fees at the same levels.

“However, that would still mean that families would have to come up with some €10,000 a year. No Cypriot bank would give these families loans on the same favourable conditions as the UK.”

EU students could get loans with close to zero interest rates while the option to pay them off gradually over 20 years plus.

“It is well-known that post-2013 crisis, almost all students are in need of some financial support to complete their studies, more so after the coronavirus crisis,” said Papayiannis.

Other options

While urging Cyprus to step in and sign a bilateral agreement with the UK to facilitate students, he did, however, note that Cypriot students are not short of options.

He noted that some families have already spent fortunes on prepping their kids for a UK education.

“Now most of them will have to scrap the UK from their options list, however, they are not without hope.”

Papayiannis said a student could study medicine at a top 300 universities for just €450 a year.

He said €450 is the tuition for studying medicine at Naples University and that a student could comfortably live there on €800 a month.

“Students opting for this university could benefit from the state grant of €3,000 while Italy also offers various reimbursements to students from the EU.”

He said there are universities in countries like Denmark which together with some municipalities give EU students extra reimbursements for meals and transportation.

Some universities have special “solidarity funds” which they use to subsidise student studies on top of any other scholarship they obtain.

“Students have a choice of at least 20 EU countries with decent to excellent universities, where they would not have to spend a fortune on getting a degree.”

However, there are things students need to know on before applying for a spot at a university in an EU country.

“That is where the Education Ministry needs to step up its game and provide students with all the necessary information, especially at a time when access to established UK universities is to become harder.”

The UK National Federation of Cypriots urged Nicosia to intervene and “make use of the historical ties between Cyprus and the UK, to keep up these strong academic ties that are obviously good for both the UK and Cyprus”.

“Cyprus and the UK have historically strong and close links, in the Commonwealth and beyond, and this should be taken into account as the UK looks to chart its destiny outside the EU,” said federation president Christos Karaolis.