By Christos Meliopoulos – Nicosia
An intense debate has broken out in Cyprus over the amendments passed by the House of Representatives with regard to the function of the public higher education institutions, mainly the University of Cyprus.
The House members have adopted measures reducing funds, something that leads to the abolishment of two academic chairs, including the one held by Cyprus’s Nobel laureate economist Christopher Pissarides. There were also highly controversial decisions on the management of EU funded academic programmes, of private sponsorships and of self-generated revenue, as well as on promotions of academic personnel. Many seemingly simple decisions, such as the purchase of research material, will have to be approved by the relevant parliamentary committee.
The General Assembly of the University’s academic staff has issued an angry statement accusing politicians of “substantially distorting” its operation’s legal framework, claiming the continuation of its academic mission is made impossible.
The government has based its actions on a report from the Auditor General which highlighted cases of money wasting. But the academics speak of an attack on the public character of the University of Cyprus, by undermining its autonomy.
Since 1992, when it opened its gates welcoming its first students, the University of Cyprus has been a beacon of pride and knowledge for the Cypriot people. The fact that since then the university has grown to become an internationally well-respected academic institution is the result of hard work and educational integrity.
What politicians fail to see is the added value produced by the University of Cyprus, evident in its social work, the know-how development and the invaluable research, which actually is a missing component in efforts to achieve economic growth all around the globe. The ills of austerity imposed on Europe are many, but none as self-defeating as the obstacles governments place on the road to knowledge and education. Punishing public universities for a crisis of which they are not the main culprit does not amount to rationalising their expenses and operation.