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Why foreign students are flocking to Cypriot universities

Cypriot universities
Since the UK announced it was leaving the EU, the number of foreign students studying at Cypriot universities has jumped to more than 27,000. Source: Shutterstock

Cypriot universities have become one of the beneficiaries of the UK exodus of EU academics and students from British universities amid uncertainty over Brexit.

Since the UK announced it was leaving the EU, the number of foreign students studying at Cypriot universities has jumped to more than 27,000, an increase of 10,000 since 2016, and the figures have tripled since 2013, according to the latest data.

Today, foreign students studying in Cyprus have overtaken Cypriot students for the first time, with 53 percent of students coming from the EU and other non-European countries.

According to latest figures for 2018/19 from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth, there are 51,086 students in Cyprus, of which 17,959 (35 percent) are European citizens, 9,255 (18 percent) third country nationals and 23,872 (47 percent) Cypriot citizens. In 2013, just 8,000 foreign students chose to study in Cyprus.

The spectacular rise in foreign students has also increased demand for student housing. The total number of rooms in student housing is expected to rise to 2,197 by the end of this year, and a significant number of construction projects for student housing are underway, at an overall value of €27.2 million.

The new data demonstrates the success of Cyprus’s drive to put the island on the map as an established educational and research hub in Europe. This week, the government stepped up its efforts by introducing ‘significant’ tax incentives to attract private universities. The plans allow universities to claim an annual discount of 20 percent on all machinery and facilities, as well as a 7 percent discount annually on buildings bought by tertiary level institutions between 2019-2021. Practical training services in the fields of education and medicine will also be exempted from VAT.

Cypriot universities

March 25th, 2019: Cyprus university students marching along the Archbishop Makarios III Avenue during the Greek Independence Day parade. Source: Shutterstock

Changes in the Private Universities Law have also granted institutions the freedom to determine their own tuition fees.

Other developments include:

  • A new fund to co-finance the transfer of top foreign researchers to the island and develop existing infrastructure. This is being offered by the national body responsible for supporting and promoting research, the Research and Innovation Foundation
  • New scholarships to top students from other countries to study in Cyprus, and permission for students to work part-time for up to 20 hours. The Cabinet has also committed to forming a separate office in the Immigration Department to deal exclusively with university applications to speed up the admission’s process for new students.
  • The launch of a new Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI) by the end of 2024, in Larnaca, to promote research, development and innovation to tackle key challenges in the global marine industry, including climate change and cyber-security.

George Campanellas, Director General of Invest Cyprus, said: “Over the last few years, Cyprus has demonstrated a significant growth in foreign students and is gradually but steadily becoming one of the beneficiaries of the uncertainty over Brexit.

“We are positive that the new incentives will have further impact on the already blooming higher education sector in Cyprus. The focus on research within our academic institutions, with Cyprus holding the highest absorption rate of EU research grants, combined with state-of-the-art infrastructure and English-taught programmes, make Cyprus a compelling choice for foreign students and universities that are looking to expand.”

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