Students Flock to Universities in
Shaded from the warm winter sun of Cyprus by eucalyptus trees, hundreds of students at Eastern Mediterranean University sat around picnic tables for lunch on a recent day, chatting about their final exams and plans for the coming semester break. Many of them would not be going home, it emerged: Namibia, Guinea or Mongolia are simply too far away for a brief vacation, especially since there are no flights from this part of the world to anywhere but Turkey.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, unilaterally proclaimed on the northern third of the island by its Turkish community three decades ago, is recognized by no country in the world except Turkey. It is diplomatically, politically and economically isolated from the world by international trade sanctions and travel embargoes. Yet thousands of young people from more than 100 countries study at its international universities, making education the leading sector of its economy.
Uchechi Owhonda, 26, a management information systems major, shrugged off the inconvenience of the flight embargo, saying that she would make use of the break to study. Ms. Owhonda said she came to Northern Cyprus because frequent strikes at her Nigerian university in Port Harcourt had been hampering her progress. “My experience here has been awesome,” she said, adding that she now hoped to graduate from her four-year program by the end of her third year, this summer.
Northern Cyprus, with a population of 300,000, has nine universities and a 10th is in the works, according to the Higher Education Council, or Yodak, the government body charged with overseeing them.
A total of 63,000 students are enrolled in these universities, of whom only 13,000, about 20 percent, are Turkish Cypriots. An additional 35,000 are from Turkey, and 15,000 international students come mainly from countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.