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.
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.
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 (ΦορέαςΔιασφάλισηςκαιΠιστοποίησηςτηςΠοιότηταςτηςΑνώτερηςΕκπαίδευσης - 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.
Plans for the creation of the School of Marine Science and Technology of the University of Cyprus in Larnaca
On July 16,2020 the Minister of Education, Culture, Athletics and Youth informed the Parliamentary Committee of Education and Culture on the willingness of the Ministry to continue with the plans of the creation of the School of Marine Science and Technology of the University of Cyprus in Larnaca. The project will be included in the budget of 2022 since the cost is considerably high (€120 million) and cannot be included in the budget of the coming year 2021.
University Liaison Offices with the labor market
The University Liaison Offices with the labor market operate within the framework of the homonymous Project, which is financed by the structural funds of the European Union, with an amount of € 7.1 million. The project involves eight Universities operating in the Republic of Cyprus (three public and five private) with the University of Cyprus as the coordinating institution. The main purpose of the Liaison Offices is to place students in companies and organizations, with placement being part of their curriculum, in order to gain professional experience. This collaboration is beneficial for both students and the companies and organizations participating in the Project. The goal of the Universities is like the curricula and the placements focus on areas with development perspective and high added value. These areas have emerged through the Smart Specialization Strategy Study, and include, among others, Information and Communication Technologies, Tourism, Research and Innovation, the environment, Construction, Shipping, etc.
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.
The prospects of Higher education in Cyprus
The Minister of Education in an article dated July 31st, 2023, refers to the Higher Education planning in Cyprus, which has developed extremely rapidly in the last fifteen years, and has become an international regional center of university education, in recent years, since both foreign and Cypriot investors have chosen to invest in Higher Education in Cyprus, with 12 Universities registered in the Register of Private Universities and more than 40 Schools of Higher Education. According to the latest data of its Mapping Field of Higher Education of Cyprus, conducted by the Directorate of Higher Education (DHE) of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth (YPAN), the total number of students in Cyprus, during the academic year 2021-22, is over 60,000. The main priority of the Ministry of Education is the interconnection of Higher Education with the labor market. It is worth noting, in this context, that for the first time the scientifically documented interconnection of the offered Study Programs of the Higher Education Institutions of Cyprus with the labor market is being attempted. Another goal that the Ministry has set, is the Internationalization of Higher Education in Cyprus with the aim of attracting foreign students as well as young researchers. For this purpose, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organizes information days in target countries and participates in International Educational Reports to promote Cyprus as an ideal study destination. Ensuring and improving the quality of Higher Education in Cyprus is another key priority. The establishment and operation of the Agency (DIPAE) is very important, because now both Public and Private Universities, as well as Schools of Higher Education, submit all their study programs for evaluation and certification of their quality, which is done by International Committees of experts of known prestige on the basis of quality criteria that are harmonized with the criteria of International Organizations for the Certification of the Quality of Higher Education. Another important parameter, which has been included in the Ministry's priorities, is the modernization of the legal framework governing Higher Education in Cyprus, where deemed necessary, so that the country's institutions operate on the basis of modern, simple, flexible and decentralized procedures and at the same time, to ensure their quality and accountability. The minister concludes that Higher Education in Cyprus is a dynamic area that is constantly transforming, evolving and seeking to keep up with modern social, economic and technological data. On the basis of the strategic planning of the Ministry, and in cooperation with all the agencies involved, the development course of Higher Education in Cyprus will continue and the country will be a center of academic excellence, research and innovation.