More countries no longer recognising TRNC higher education institutions
By GÜLDEREN ÖZTANSU
Speaking to Cyprus Today, Serhat Akpınar, the founding rector of GAU, said that “TRNC higher education institutions are no longer recognised by some countries due to the diplomatic initiatives of the Greek Cypriots”.
Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates “no longer recognise higher education certificates issued by universities in North of Cyprus” Mr Akpınar revealed this week.
Two months ago, when an agreement was signed between Jordan and South Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot authorities gave special permission for Jordanian students in the TRNC to cross the border and fly back to their homes in Jordan.
“This situation is the result of a long process initiated by [South Cyprus],” he said. “They are against the development of educational institutions in the North and the international recognition of them.
“Students from five countries are not allowed to receive higher education services from the universities in TRNC. This is a violation of the values set out by the UN that declares access to education a human right.
“Both the Greek Cypriot government in Cyprus and the countries they have agreed with are violating human rights on a political level.”
Mr Akpınar said that existing TRNC university students and those who have obtained degrees from North Cyprus in the past would be exempted from these “restrictive agreements”.
He warned, however, that a perception created by Greek Cypriot officials that higher education institutions and their degrees are “illegal” could reduce the opportunities foreign students have in their home countries.
An official South Cyprus “Position of the Government” questions the legal status of universities operating in the North.
Mr Akpınar continued: “In order to achieve their goal, [South Cyprus] has focused on embassies in various countries, in a joint effort between their Foreign Ministry and their Education Ministry, built on the political thesis that North Cyprus is under ‘occupation’. . . our Foreign Ministry, Education Ministry and Presidency has done nothing in the past.”
He said that he would have a meeting with the new coalition government “very soon” but that they have “not had a chance to do anything yet”.
In a recent TV interview, Mr Akpınar stated that there has been a 20 per cent decline in the number of university students in the TRNC compared to last year, which he partly attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said he is hoping to “raise the urgency of the problem” at a proposed meeting with President Ersin Tatar.
“The threat [of other countries withdrawing recognition of North Cyprus university degrees] can most definitely grow,” he warned
“The number of countries that won’t send us students can increase as the Greek Cypriots work towards their mission.
“A Nigerian student died in [North] Cyprus not too long ago. This triggered fake news in Nigeria that hundreds of [Nigerian] lives were lost in the TRNC. We are giving an incomprehensible fight in Nigeria, working so hard to ensure that we are represented fairly.”
Mr Akpınar called on Turkey’s Higher Education Council (YÖK) and its counterparts in North Cyprus to work together to “stop students rights to study where they want from being violated”. “YÖK has promised before that they would protect universities [in the TRNC]” he said. “We need the diplomatic support of Turkey. Ministries from the TRNC and Turkey should work together on this matter.”
In addition to countries in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, South Cyprus has also influenced countries in Southeast Asia, as well China and Russia, on the issue of TRNC university degrees, Mr Akpınar noted.
The National Education and Culture Ministry, and the Higher Education Planning, Inspection, Accreditation and Coordination Council did not respond to requests for comment from Cyprus Today.