English-language universities in Cyprus – good or bad?
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.