Petros Pashiardis, Open University of Cyprus
Petros Pashiardis is rector of the Open University of Cyprus.
The PIE: What makes international students choose to study at Open University of Cyprus rather than in their home countries or with competitor institutions in Cyprus?
Petros Pashiardis: There are plenty of reasons for international students to choose the Open University of Cyprus as a study destination. First of all, OUC has no borders, and at the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, more than 52% of our student community is located outside Cyprus. Essentially, students choose OUC for the opportunity to study in a European public university, offering exclusive open and distance education.
Open education means unrestricted access to quality tertiary education and professional development, and distance education, supported by a state-of-the-art, and user-friendly eLearning Platform, safeguards flexibility, which allows students to fit their studies around personal and professional commitments. eLearning by itself will add to students’ overall experience, as in today’s globalised and fast-evolving world, digital technologies are a major driver for growth and productivity, and digital skills are much sought in the labour market.
OUC offers affordable, multidisciplinary, career-oriented, high quality and accredited -by national and foreign agencies- Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. programmes of study programmes of study in various scientific fields, in classical and cutting-edge subject areas, which meet the needs of the business world, and upskill graduates to fulfil their personal and professional aspirations. Moreover, students will interact with internationally recognized, engaging academics in communities of learning, in a seamless learning environment, using real-time and asynchronous communication and collaboration tools, and will develop knowledge and skills that would help them advance and boost their career. Compared to other European universities, tuition fees at OUC are rather competitive, while at the same time our University offers discounts to students with disabilities, unemployed people, single parents or students with large families, etc.
Moreover, OUC fosters strong and mutually beneficial partnerships with Universities and research centers both in Cyprus and abroad, aiming to achieve long-term cooperation in educational and research programmes, joint and/or double degrees, and to promote the mobility of its students and staff. Through the excellent work of researchers and staff who are at the forefront in their fields, Open University of Cyprus is reinforcing its position as a quality research institution, with awarded European and local research projects, national and international research teams and steadily increasing external research funding.
Cypriot Universities have, over the years, invested heavily in vibrant and modern campuses, dormitories, state-of-the-art technologies, educational infrastructure and research labs, and, like the Open University of Cyprus, demonstrate high calibre research records of accomplishment. Yet, what distinguishes OUC from competitor institutions in Cyprus, is the fact that the Open University of Cyprus is the only university on the island which offers exclusively distance learning programmes with years of expertise in this educational methodology. Over the years, OUC has been focusing on constantly improving our students’ learning experience. This is achieved by closely following contemporary trends in distance education, by applying best practices, and by incorporating cutting-edge technologies in the educational process. For such advancements, OUC has been awarded Gold Awards at the Cyprus Education Leaders Awards in 2019 and 2020.
The PIE: Where do your students come from and are your target markets changing?
PP: Approximately 45% of our students reside in Greece, and about 8% of our students reside in Third Countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States of America, Belgium, Canada, etc. These figures are, for the time being, quite expected, as of the 26 Programmes of Study offered by the Open University of Cyprus, only four (4) Masters are currently offered in English. Our main target areas are the European Union, the United Kingdom given Brexit, the Russian Federation, Middle East countries, and countries of the Arab world, which recognise open and distance education.
The PIE: Can you speak a bit about the expansion of English-taught programs? Is this to attract more international students beyond the large number coming from Greece?
PP: One of our strategic goals for further internationalising the Open University of Cyprus is to design new or expand existing programmes of study in English, as well as to upgrade marketing efforts and student recruitment strategies to attract a wide range of degree-seeking international students. OUC has students living in many parts of the world, but most of them are Greek-speaking people. Our strategic advantage is our distance learning methodology, which allows students to study from their home country, without disrupting their personal or work routines. Our aspiration is thus to develop into a truly international open university that will attract and retain English-speaking populations, as well as renowned international faculty.
Currently, OUC offers these four master’s degree programs in English including Master of Business Administration (MBA), Cognitive Systems (joint degree with the University of Cyprus), Enterprise Risk Management (joint degree with the Hellenic Open University) and Adult Education for Social Change (Erasmus Mundus International Master)
A new MA Programme in “Educational Leadership and Policy” has been recently approved by the National Quality Assurance Agency, and it will be offered as of the next academic year (2022-2023). Moreover, OUC has signed a Memorandum of Collaboration with the Hellenic Air Force Academy to design a new Joint Master’s Degree Programme in “Security and Defence”. We are currently working on additional programmes to be offered in English, in popular scientific fields and cutting-edge areas, such as Human Computer Interaction, Digital Marketing, Tourism and Hospitality Management, aiming to attract and retain international students.
Another strategic priority in our course towards internationalisation is strengthening strategic international partnerships and collaborations that will promote research cooperation, joint degrees that will draw international students to OUC and partner universities, and mobility opportunities for students and staff.
The PIE: Are students looking for different programs beyond the traditional business programs?
PP: Before taking up your question, I would like to stress the following: Traditionally, the term “university student” explicitly referred to 18- to 24-year-olds matriculated immediately after completing high school education. At the OUC, the majority of our students are working-adult, 35-45 years old, seeking a degree to advance or change their career path. It is thus important for our students to graduate with marketable skills that fit and prepare them for the dynamic world of work.
In fact, the “Open MBA” and other traditional business programmes are quite popular at the Open University of Cyprus; yet, we see growth in student enrolments in other cutting-edge areas, such as Cognitive Systems, Educational Leadership, Theatre Studies, and Healthcare Management.
Our academic growth is strategically decided based on employment trends, that we carefully monitor, society needs and demands, target market research and intelligence, and scientific advancements.
The PIE: Any other points you’d like to highlight to our readers?
PP: The Open University of Cyprus is a relatively young, but growing fast, open and distance education University. Its academic stature is rising over the years, and the combination of the University’s high quality academic offer, internationally recognised academics and research, and state-of-the-art eLearning Platform make the Open University of Cyprus a quality study destination of choice for students from across the world. Overall, OUC’s philosophy is simple: there is no “one size fits all” approach to higher education. We place students at the heart of education and embrace innovative approaches in a motivating learning environment, to develop their skills, nurture their interests and expand their horizons, whilst upholding high academic standards.
Studying at OUC will provide you with an excellent academic experience, and a valuable degree title to meet personal and professional aspirations. This is what we promise to provide for our students, in our efforts to become the Edupreneurial University, which the 21st century requires.