Cyprus universities double

Back when I was in high school, Russia was going through some serious, and at times sporadic, reforms in education system.  We used to have just schools, but suddenly half of them turned into gymnasiums, while another half turned into colleges.  New and weird subjects were introduced, such as Latin, rhetoric and philosophy (high school, remember?).  In order to fit these new subjects into curriculum, hours were cut from the rest of the regular subjects, such as English language and math.  But there were not enough qualified personal to teach these subjects, and there were no teaching materials suitable for high-school level.  With all these problems, the overall quality of education started to sink rapidly…

That’s why I got a bit worried when I learned that the number of universities in Cyprus just doubled.  Now we have six universities (just to remind you, Cyprus population is under 1 million people).   Three private colleges got a status of university, including my alma mater – Intercollege.

The minister of education says that the new age of education is coming to Cyprus.  That’s probably true.  I’m sure six universities for less than a million heads in population will attract a lot of foreign students, money and all.  But I’m not sure what will happen to the quality.

It’s been a while since I last visited Intercollege, even though I am still a student pursuing the bachelor degree (which I probably never get).  But from the times when I was studing, I have to say that the quality was good enough for college level.  By that I mean diploma, associate and bachelor degrees.

My wife, and a couple of friends, did their Masters’ in Intercollege.  And that was already over their top.  For example, all you needed to apply for Master’s degree was a Bachelor degree.  And you didn’t have to have it in the same field.  So, to start with Master of Business Administration one could have a Bachelor degree in Computer Science.  That means that you could get a Master’s degree in the area where you almost no prior knowledge or experience, and you could do it in just two years…

For a number of courses, they  had to bring faculty from outside the country and pack the studies into highly intensive summer semesters.  While that was better than not having them at all, it wasn’t as good as having permanent faculty who could teach these courses.

I majored in Computer Science.  I studied in Limassol campus.  We had two Ph.D professors and one Master. The rest had Bachelor’s and were teaching the basic stuff, like Introduction to Computers and things like that.  All three of those were really good at what they did.  But all of them left the college long time ago.  And I haven’t heard of any new good ones coming to replace them. Nicosia campus used to have more faculty, but I remember only one professor who was really good.   And from what I heard he left the college too…

Now that I’m working in the IT industry, I see how huge is the deficit of human resources.  Finding programmers is hard.  Finding good programmers is impossible.  I’ve seen bachelors who confuse the programming language they are best at with another language altogether  (Java has “void” in blue, while C++ has it in green).  I’ve seen Masters of Computer Science who mistype the word “computer” three different ways in the same paragraph.  I’ve seen web designers with a degree, who can’t name 10 HTML tags (Dreamweaver all the way).  I’ve seen somebody who thinks AJAX works only over WiFi.  I can go on…

I wish this could be changed.  I wish these three new universities could help.  I wish them all the best of luck and all.  But I have my doubts…

5 thoughts on “Cyprus universities double”

  1. I can confirm that the level of teaching (probably even load) is not high at all even in Nicosia (since I am still attending it). This is about any (from my experience) class. From the last example I can give Linear Algebra which I just have passed with no bloody knowledge in even simple maths, no textbooks, after I skipped half of the classes, had a lot of beer in summer and came back for a make-up exam (since I missed the one in Spring) after only couple of hours reading some small examples on the web :)

    The major problem, as I can see, is a so called curving of grades. When a majority of bachelor students after so many classes related to programming can’t really understand what is a class inheritance or something even simplier and score very low on the tests, instead of failing them (as probably should be), teachers to curving of grades by rising all the marks 10+ % up :). So if you have a class where most of the people got 50% and only couple did around 90%, teachers would make it most 60% (to pass them since 60 is a pass score) and make those two with 90% to get 100% (which shouldn’t be much possible, since knowing a subject perfectly well is a very, very rare case).

  2. Curvings.. yeah… thanks for reminding. :)

    Back in the days when I studied, it wasn’t so popular, although a few teachers used the technique. One of the drawbacks was that good students were discouraged from doing good, because they were spoiling the curving of the rest of the class.

    Basically, if someone got 100% then there would be no space to curve up for the rest of the students. However I remember that it was still a couple of times (pushing 95% to 105%). The worst part was that it was, I think, in math classes.

    … not that I ever studied that good or anything…

  3. Maths classes are still the most curved once :) Other problem is that even in the beginning of the semester if teaches sees someone has now knowledge of prerequisite classes, (s)he allows that student to continue with the current class.

    For instance, when I took Java class a year ago (which requires one to pass Pascal, C++ and some other programming classes in order to get this one) a lot of students didn’t know what a bloody function is, not even mentioning pointers, memory allocations or having at least a basic idea on how compilers work :).

    This actually comes as a chain. First student passes Pascal due to curving, then misses half of the material from C++, because a teacher needs to do some introduction to programming which is normally done in Pascal, then he comes to Java and everything starts from the beginning.

    I wouldn’t care that much about those students if I was not to participate a class with them, but actually I have to come to those classes, listen to stupid (at that stage) question about simple things and (this is the part that pisses me off the most) listen to the explanation of that stupid thing for the n-th time. That makes it boring and I am also paying for that.

  4. Several things here guys…

    First of all you seem think a university is something which gives a guaranteed level of knowledge. Well, I’ve seen a helluva lot of graduates from various universities around the world who are basicly at the same level that you describe from college graduates. I would even dare to say that vast majority is like that.

    After transforming to university, the educational institution is supposedly obliged by law to follow a more strict set of standards. For example, all faculty staff should be PhD. Another thing is that for example Frederick raised the pay-scale up to the level of government universities (e.g. around 3K CYP monthly for a professor). This allows them to get better academic staff.

    But in the end, I think everywhere teaching level is adjusted to the average level of a student. And that is the main issue in my opinion.

    One thing that will always miss from private universities, is entrance competition by means of passing exams. That implies that “quality” of students is not guaranteed and will probably be lower.

  5. hazard,

    of course, the quality of education is not guaranteed. But I think it’s still somewhat measurable against the quality of education in other places. And if Cyprus colleges were roughly comparable to most of other places, upgrade to “universities” will lower their comparison… Obviously, I don’t have any hard numbers here :)

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