Historical Background

The Department of Higher Education (DHE) is the competent authority within the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth (MOECSY) regarding all sectors and issues linked to Higher Education (HE). The Department was established in 1984 and has been playing a leading role in the development of HE in Cyprus. The Department aims to further foster the appropriate conditions for the provision of high quality HE and training in academic and professional programmes of studies, increasing the capacity of provision as much as possible to the larger number of people. It is responsible for the budget, the legal matters of state Universities, the registration of private Universities, the development of international cooperation by developing bilateral/multilateral agreements, the establishment and operation of Higher Education Institutions (HEI), and so on.

After the independence of the island (1960) and several years before the establishment of DHE, a number of professionally oriented public and private non-university level institutions had been developed to cover educational, economical and societal needs. At the end of the 80’s, the discussions about the establishment of Universities in Cyprus matured. Within this framework, DHE had an important role in the establishment and development of Universities in Cyprus.

Specifically, the first University of the island, ‘The University of Cyprus’, was founded in 1989. The University of Cyprus received its first undergraduate students in 1992 and its first postgraduate students in 1997. The ‘Open University of Cyprus’ was founded in 2002 and received its first students in 2006. Its mission has been to provide high quality academic programmes, to promote scientific research and to effectively utilise educational technology, teaching methodology in open and distance learning, thus reflecting the government’s policy to increase people’s access to lifelong learning and professional development. The following year, in 2007, the ‘Cyprus University of Technology’ was established to offer fields of studies related to applied sciences and technology. Public Universities are established by law and they are financed mostly by the government. They are autonomous and self-governing Universities.

In 2007, three private Universities were registered and given Initial Licence to operate based on the legislation regarding the establishment and operation of private Universities in Cyprus. These Universities were the Frederick University, the European University and the University of Nicosia. Since 2011 these three Universities have been operating under a (final) Licence of Operation. Neapolis University - Pafos and the University of Central Lancashire – Cyprus received their Initial Licence of Operation in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Since 2015 they have been operating under a (final) Licence of Operation. In 2019 the Philips University in Nicosia received an Initial Licence to operate. In 2021 Initial Licence to operate was also granted to the American University of Cyprus (AUCY) in Larnaca and in 2023 to the University of Limassol (UoL) in Limassol and to the American University of Beirut – Mediterraneo (AUB Mediterraneo) in Pafos.

The programmes, the procedures and the buildings of all private Universities were evaluated and accredited by the Evaluation Committee of Private Universities (ECPU), which was the competent Authority for evaluation and accreditation at that time. It is important to note that all public and private Universities have developed undergraduate and graduate programmes (first, second and third cycles) of high quality and are developing infrastructures for high quality research centres.

As mentioned above, in the early 60’s, a number of Private Institutions of Higher Education (HE) were established. In 1996, with the establishment of the Cyprus Council of Educational Evaluation - Accreditation, their programs of study were evaluated and accredited. It is important to note that in 2015, the afore-mentioned Bodies for Evaluation and Accreditation of the HEIs, that is the Evaluation Committee of Private Universities (ECPU), the Advisory Committee of Tertiary Education (SETE) and the Council of Educational Evaluation and Accreditation (SEKAP), were replaced by the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (CYQAA), which is now the competent authority for Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Cyprus.

Entrance Examinations - Scholarships

The positions which are allocated to Cypriots for studies in the higher and tertiary education institutions of Greece are distributed among the candidates on the basis of the results of the competitive Entrance Examinations which are held every year by the Department of Higher and Tertiary Education.

Scholarships are awarded by the State Scholarships Foundation of Greece (IKY) on the basis of the results of these examinations. Based on the same examination results candidates were admitted to the Pedagogical Academy of Cyprus to be trained as teachers of Elementary Schools. Through the years Entrance Examinations procedures were considered by the interested candidates as being objective and impeccable in every respect.

Student Affairs Service

The Student Affairs Service was responsible for the students’ archive, the evaluation of programmes of study and the issuing of certificates for the purpose of exporting foreign exchange currency by students. In addition, it was responsible on issues regarding the programme of subsidization of Cypriot students in Greece as well as the scholarships programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece. It provided information to state services and semi-governmental organizations as regards to studies and titles of study obtained abroad. Finally, it had the responsibility for the issuing of student identity cards.

Main goals and challenges of Higher Education in Cyprus
  • Enhance quality assurance in HE through keeping up with the Bologna Process
  • Active involvement in Bologna Process and its implementation in Cyprus Education
  • Develop Cyprus into a regional centre for education and research
  • Increase the number of people attending HE in Cyprus
  • Increase the number of students attending programmes related to science, technology and communication
  • Promote the knowledge square (education, research, innovation and social service) and excellence in research, technology and innovation in Higher Education
  • Make Cyprus’ HE more attractive and accessible to international students
  • Enhance the governance and funding of the HE Institutions
  • Promote mobility of students and staff
Cyprus’ accession to the European Union (EU) has brought forward new challenges for the Department of Higher and Tertiary Education which has taken significant steps towards the establishment of Cyprus as a regional educational and research center and has also implemented a series of measures regarding the alignment of the Cypriot educational policy and vision with that of the European Union. The Lisbon Strategy, which has been adopted by the European Union, aspires to turn the EU into the most competitive knowledge-based economy with more work positions and social cohesion.

Cyprus has joined several organizations and committees in an effort to comply with the development of the necessary European platform of “Quality & Assurance” of European Higher Education. In addition, Cyprus has reinforced the motives in increasing the number of people involved in “Research”. Cyprus is classified as one of the countries with the least contribution in “Research” but it is one of the few countries with the most rapid increase in expenditures in this sector.