By Stephen Lillie and Angela Hennelly
While the disruption the COVID19 pandemic has caused to economies worldwide is immense, there may also be benefits for certain sectors who choose to adapt early to the post-COVID world. The education sector is one such example.
COVID19 is set to see a surge in new ways of education delivery. Transnational education (TNE) is education delivered in one country while the awarding institution is based in another. It is the fastest growing education sector in the UK, offering greater mobility of higher education programmes and institutions across international borders.
Post-COVID19, prospective students may now be more reluctant to travel overseas, preferring home study options, or interested in combining studying at home and overseas within the same course.
Some institutions are already trialling radical new delivery options, such as Cambridge, Manchester and Queen’s Universities’ decision to deliver the whole of their teaching in academic year 2020-21 online.
Cyprus is now the fastest growing market in Europe for Trans-National Education for UK institutions. Cyprus has ambitions and specific advantages as a potential regional education and research hub, given its EU membership, close links to the Middle East region and tradition of strong education links with the United Kingdom.
With the rising quality of Cypriot higher education institutions, and the rise in popularity of alternative forms of education delivery, including trans-national education options, foreign education institutions are already seeing the advantages of partnerships with Cyprus.
Increasing TNE co-operation can also lead to ever greater scientific cooperation – already an area of strength for our countries, and the rate of growth has never been stronger. These include the KIOS Centre of Excellence with Imperial College London; RISE with UCL; The Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute with the University of Southampton; St George’s Medical School, University of London with the University of Nicosia; and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) with its own campus on the island. Various other universities offer joint degrees or franchised programmes, and more are under development. A change of legislation in franchise collaborations has made it easier for such partnerships with the UK to flourish further in the future following our exit from the European Union.
All this provides an opportunity for the UK and Cyprus to collaborate on innovative new ways in the education and research sectors, building on already established partnerships.
In 2019, the British Council hosted an event to promote the opportunities for the UK and Cyprus in trans-national education co-operation, generating much interest from British and Cypriot institutions alike. This was followed by a further TNE matchmaking event in London. On 30 June, the British Council will host a follow up (virtual) seminar on the opportunities of COVID19 for the TNE sector in Cyprus, giving British institutions the opportunity to hear for themselves from Cypriot counterparts.
What might the education sector of the future look like? Might we imagine UK and Cypriot universities working together to attract new students from the Middle East? Taking a more targeted approach to matchmaking between specific universities, in specific fields? Or offering degree programmes which could combine spending academic time in both Cyprus and the UK resulting in one or double degrees?
With over 40,000 Cypriot alumni of British universities, the tradition of a UK education is strong in Cyprus. We want that special link through education as a cornerstone of our relations to endure. As COVID19 reshapes our future, countries will need to work together more than ever to pool resources and develop new mutually beneficial partnerships. In this, the 60th year of UK-Cyprus relations, and the 80th of the British Council’s presence in Cyprus facilitating education and cultural links between our countries, we are committed to working with the Cyprus government and our respective education sectors to explore new forms of education and research co-operation fit for the 21st century and post-COVID realities.
Stephen Lillie CMG is British High Commissioner in Cyprus
Angela Hennelly Director of the British Council in Cyprus