English-lan­guage uni­ver­si­ties in Cyprus – good or bad?

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ever since the Uni­ver­sity of Cyprus was es­tab­lished, I have op­posed the use of Greek in­stead of English as the main lan­guage of teach­ing. Be­cause of this fool­ish sense pa­tri­o­tism from the days of the Clerides pres­i­dency, this re­mark­able uni­ver­sity only at­tracts lo­cals and some Greek stu­dents, and has lost all for­eign­ers and cer­tainly all Turk­ish Cypri­ots, which would have trans­formed the uni­ver­sity into a meet­ing place and for so­cial­is­ing, while for­eign stu­dents main­tain warm ties to Cyprus when re­turn­ing to their coun­tries. As a re­sult of this lan­guage bar­rier, the Turk­ish Cypriot side now has 20,000 stu­dents in its mainly English-speak­ing uni­ver­si­ties who pay tu­ition. We have also lost the op­por­tu­nity to at­tract for­eign grad­u­ates who would by now have re­turned or moved on to other for­eign coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East, and we have lost of course many Euro­peans, par­tic­u­larly those from the for­mer Eastern Euro­pean coun­tries. As a re­sult, we have a uni­ver­sity that is pri­mar­ily sup­ported by the Cypriot tax­payer and does not jus­tify enough rev­enues to pay for its own ex­penses.

This wrong de­ci­sion has left the door wide open for pri­vate English-speak­ing uni­ver­si­ties to at­tract those for­eign stu­dents that should have gone to UCy. When re­fer­ring to English-speak­ing uni­ver­si­ties, al­low me to have strong reser­va­tions re­gard­ing most of th­ese uni­ver­si­ties and the English-lan­guage col­leges.

From my own ex­pe­ri­ence, teach­ers seem to have very limited knowl­edge of the pro­fes­sional level of English and many lessons are of­ten taught in a form of Greek-English. Tests and as­sign­ments are ei­ther in Greek or English, depend­ing on what suits the stu­dent and makes you won­der about the level we have here – books in English, lessons in Greek-English, as­sign­ments and notes in Greek-English and in the end the grad­u­ate gets a de­gree that as re­gards lan­guage pro­fi­ciency is prob­a­bly the worst that could pos­si­bly be pro­vided.

Be­cause there will be many who will crit­i­cise me for th­ese views, I urge the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to se­ri­ously con­sider th­ese con­cerns, oth­er­wise we would be do­ing the worst pos­si­ble thing to Cyprus that as­pires to be­come an in­ter­na­tional cen­tre of learn­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.

I re­it­er­ate yet again that prac­ti­tion­ers who do not com­mand and ex­cel­lent stan­dard and are pro­fi­cient in the pro­fes­sional use of the English lan­guage (and not that which is heard in clubs and pubs) should have no fu­ture, ei­ther in Cyprus or abroad.

Let me just re­fer to some sim­plis­tic talk that I hear in public that so-and-so “is a very good lawyer who grad­u­ated from Eng­land” which is a widely used ref­er­ence for al­most all pro­fes­sions. In present-day Cyprus, which wants to be­come a se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional and off­shore cen­tre, the proper use of English or any other lead­ing in­ter­na­tional lan­guage is a must, while learn­ing ad­di­tional lan­guages ??such as as Rus­sian, Man­darin, etc., should be con­sid­ered as a ma­jor qual­i­fi­ca­tion and ex­cels that of a Masters or PhD de­gree. Most work con­ducted on an in­ter­na­tional ba­sis nowa­days uses at least the English lan­guage, while on the in­ter­na­tional scene we have of­ten seen the grad­ual and in­creas­ing use of English Law stan­dards, such as a more fre­quent use of the Bri­tish Courts and ar­bi­tra­tion courts, in ad­di­tion to those em­ployed for in­ter­na­tional con­tracts.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for em­ploy­ment that we re­ceive as an of­fice are of­ten re­jected im­me­di­ately if the ap­pli­cant does not know what I would like to re­fer to as “busi­ness English”, while where we made the mis­take and hired the well-known GreekEnglish can­di­dates, we were bur­dened with a dou­ble cost, both in terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with for­eign cus­tomers, to write re­ports, etc., as well as to hire a sec­ond per­son to cor­rect them af­ter­wards.

When a young per­son wants to study in a for­eign coun­try, that for­eign uni­ver­sity in an at­tempt not to down­grade the level of its teach­ing, ei­ther re­quires the ap­pli­cant to at­tend at least one year’s in­ten­sive learn­ing of that lan­guage (also known as ‘foun­da­tion cour­ses’) or in­sists on en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions be­ing con­ducted in the main teach­ing lan­guage of the uni­ver­sity.

The whole sit­u­a­tion is re­gret­table and cer­tainly deans and rec­tors are mostly re­spon­si­ble, as very of­ten ad­mis­sion stan­dards are low­ered purely for fi­nan­cial rea­sons.

Some might re­call the tire­less ef­forts of the for­mer Rec­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of Cyprus, that re­mark­able Pro­fes­sor Tso­gopoulou and the un­re­strained hos­til­ity she faced from the then Chair­man of the Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee of the House, and now Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, who kept on crit­i­cis­ing her on a con­stant ba­sis.

The ef­forts for a bi­com­mu­nal uni­ver­sity (hence English­s­peak­ing) thus failed, freely al­low­ing the Turk­ish Cypri­ots be achieve what we could not with our nar­row-mind­ed­ness and the con­stant in­ter­ven­tion of the ‘wise’ politi­cians, such as the in­ci­dent dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Uni­ver­sity where Ms. Tso­gopoulou dared to sit the Am­bas­sador of Greece in the sec­ond row and what she suf­fered later from the con­tin­ued at­tacks from the House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee.

So, food for thought for all that per­haps chang­ing the main lan­guage the Uni­ver­sity of Cyprus to English might not be a bad idea and if so, it should be done son.

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