“Universities contribute to making Northern Cyprus exist in the world’s imaginations”
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Northern Cyprus, a self-proclaimed state recognized only by Turkey, has massively developed its university system: no less than twenty establishments, which concentrate on this territory which occupies a third of the island of Cyprus, seek to attract students from from developing countries. But this business generates excesses. Analysis with Théotime Chabre, doctoral student in political science.
In Northern Cyprus, a self-declared state recognized only by Turkey, education has become a financial windfall. With 23 universities, the entity welcomes many foreign students aspiring to a better future. But some of them are sometimes victims of abusive promises. Théotime Chabre, doctoral student in political science, is currently preparing a thesis on the political stakes of the international higher education market, at the Mesopolhis laboratory at Aix-Marseille University and at the Convergences Migration Institute. He has studied the emergence of this self-proclaimed state as an international destination for higher education.
France 24: Is the massive development of universities in Northern Cyprus a way for this entity, recognized only by Turkey, to gain better international recognition?
Theotime Chabre: This development does not stem so much from a political desire to be recognized from the outside, but rather from an ambition to develop an economy that allows the territory to be autonomous. The original idea was to make Northern Cyprus a destination for consumers, focusing on tourism, but a minority of investors and academics felt that this would not be enough. They pushed the idea of developing universities that would bring in other visitors, young people from Turkey and elsewhere.
They got some support from the authorities, from Northern Cyprus and Turkey. First a public university was built, then it was mostly private universities or campuses of Turkish universities. There is a favorable ground for these universities, it is seen with a good eye on the part of the authorities because they contribute to normalize Northern Cyprus, to make this territory exist in the world’s imagination. On the southern side of Cyprus, on the other hand, this development is much more perceived as a tool for political recognition, as is any attempt to highlight Northern Cyprus.
What is the quality of the education offered there? Are his diplomas internationally recognized ?
It’s quite heterogeneous but there are universities that offer quality training. It all depends on the establishment and the diploma you are aiming for, theEastern Mediterranean University, for example, ranks very well compared to Turkish universities. What should be noted above all is that it is accessible to young people who are looking to be mobile for their studies and who have been able to have their applications rejected in France, the United Kingdom… for visa reasons. The quality varies, but it allows a population increasingly remote from Europe to access international student mobility.
Regarding the recognition of diplomas, Northern Cyprus has tried to join the European Higher Education Area, an area of intergovernmental cooperation which brings together the 49 countries of the Council of Europe, but member states ruled that its international status precluded it from becoming a member.
However, the university system in Northern Cyprus is not designed for graduates to then work in Northern Cyprus, so it is crucial that the diplomas can be used in the countries of origin of the students, or in third countries. Most universities have diplomas validated by the Turkish diploma recognition body, which generally allows them to be recognized in Europe. There are graduates who continue their studies in the United States, France, etc.
Universities in Northern Cyprus also seek to have their degrees recognized by accreditation agencies in other countries. In North America, for example, these agencies are independent of the State, grouped together by profession or by region, and are used to selling their service abroad. Likewise in Germany. The diplomas are generally issued in such a way that there is no mention of Northern Cyprus on them, which allows them to pass for Turkish diplomas and facilitates their recognition.
>> To read also: Foreign students in Northern Cyprus: false promises and disappointments
North Cyprus’ de facto education minister says he wants to regulate the system of agents – recruiters paid by universities to canvass students – by setting up an official accreditation system. Can this project succeed ?
The observation that the agent system has led to abuses is shared by all. Moreover, if there are real problems, in the majority of cases, relations between professional agents and universities go well, hence the importance of rigorous monitoring. But, on the one hand, political life in Northern Cyprus is very unstable. Governments do not last long, which makes it difficult to follow up on files. On the other hand, universities are very influential. EThey use agents to compensate for their reduced international visibility, but also because they are in competition with each other, and the financial stakes are very high on the scale of the island. It is therefore difficult to imagine seeing emerge a system of guardianship of agents that is under the control of local authorities.
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