Foreign students are big business in northern Cyprus, a tiny, breakaway statelet only recognized by Turkey, but some warn that university recruiters are selling “dreams” in the internationally and economically isolated territory.
One Nigerian student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he expected to arrive in the country whose soccer teams compete in European tournaments.
Instead, when he saw the currency was the embattled Turkish lira, he realized this was “not the Cyprus I thought it was.”
The Mediterranean island is divided between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus and a northern statelet established after Turkey launched a 1974 invasion in response to a Greek-sponsored coup.
The self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is home to just several hundred thousand people, but hosts 21 universities officially recognized by the breakaway authorities and Turkey.
International students pay tuition in euros or US dollars, and sometimes also for accommodation — a windfall for the territory’s isolated economy.
The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, is facing record numbers of new asylum seekers, most arriving from across the UN-patrolled buffer zone, and accuses Turkey of encouraging the influx.
Almost half of the north’s more than 108,000 “active” tertiary students were from outside the TRNC or Turkey in the 2021-2022 academic year, with about 17,400 from Nigeria alone in the spring semester, official figures showed.
TRNC Minister of National Education and Culture Nazim Cavusoglu estimated that the university sector and its indirect revenues fueled about 35 percent of the north’s GDP — “far ahead of tourism.”
Relatively low tuition fees — sometimes less than US$3,000 per year — are a major selling point, and are often presented as if marked down by “scholarships” of up to 75 percent.
However, a university official who asked to remain anonymous said that this was a “trick.”
“It is not like we are giving these scholarships” to international students, he said, adding that the marked-down price is the actual tuition cost.
Real international tuition waivers were few, he added.
Some students said they had been misled about study or work opportunities, or were not told they were coming to a divided island.
Cameroonian Rictus Franck Ngongang, 28, said he wanted “the magic” of easy entry, but was duped by a recruiter.
The business student’s “first shock” was finding “there were 10 of us in a two-room flat,” after he paid 300 euros (US$309) for a month’s accommodation. He was also not enrolled in the course he expected.
He has since started a support association — also involving agents — to try to help other students in difficulty.
Some recruiters “sell dreams,” he said.
At northern Nicosia’s small American University of Cyprus — which officials said has no stand-alone US university accreditation — foreign students were learning Turkish in a classroom with Ottoman-style windows as the Muslim call to prayer rang out over the divided city.
However, head of student affairs Hazan Serifli said half of the institution’s 200 international students were not attending.
Some “lose their [financial] sponsors ... or some other things happen,” public relations and marketing director Engin Sirvan said, adding that it was not the university’s role to police attendance.
A report by the north’s Center for Migration, Identity and Rights Studies said that impoverished foreign students risked falling “into the hands of criminal elements,” and that the situation “facilitates human trafficking and exploitation.”
Cavusoglu said legislation was being drafted requiring agents to be accredited with the TRNC Ministry of National Education and Culture, and to provide financial guarantees.
A representation of modern Turkey’s founder and first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk hanging on the wall behind his desk, he also said that there were up to 15,000 “passive” students not attending classes.
Nigerian Ibrahim Isaac, who runs a small agency, had a blunt message for prospective students: “If you don’t have the money ... don’t come.”
Education expert Salih Sarpten said the north is “unprepared” to host so many universities.
The territory is turning into a place for young people who “want to take a shortcut to Europe,” he said.
Apps and Web sites that use artificial intelligence (AI) to undress women in photos are soaring in popularity, researchers said. In September alone, 24 million people visited undressing Web sites, the social network analysis company Graphika said. Many of these undressing, or “nudify,” services use popular social networks for marketing, Graphika said. For instance, since the beginning of this year, the number of links advertising undressing apps increased more than 2,400 percent on social media, including on X and Reddit, the researchers said. The services use AI to recreate an image so that the person is nude. Many of the services only
IN ABSOLUTE CONTROL: About 80 percent of Russians approve of Putin, a survey shows, but that might be misleading due to his intolerance to criticism Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday moved to prolong his repressive and unyielding grip on Russia for at least another six years, announcing his candidacy in the presidential election in March that he is all but certain to win. Putin still commands wide support after nearly a quarter-century in power, despite starting an immensely costly war in Ukraine that has taken thousands of his people’s lives, provoked repeated attacks inside Russia — including one on the Kremlin itself — and corroded its aura of invincibility. A short-lived rebellion in June by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin raised widespread speculation that Putin could be
JUMPING BAIL: The democracy advocate said made the decision after ‘considering the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, my physical and mental health’ Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow (周庭), who was jailed over her role in massive 2019 protests, on Sunday said she had moved to Canada and would not return to meet her bail conditions. Chow was one of the best-known young faces of the 2012, 2014 and 2019 protest movements against Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule in Hong Kong. She spent about seven months behind bars for her role in a protest outside Hong Kong police headquarters in 2019, when huge crowds rallied week after week in the most serious challenge to China’s rule since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover. On Sunday
TAKING STOCK: It was not yet clear how damaging the espionage, dating to 1981, has been, as authorities are still assessing the situation, the State Department said A former US ambassador to Bolivia has been arrested and charged with spying for Cuba over a 40-year span, the US Department of Justice announced on Monday, detailing a shock betrayal by a suspect who called the US “the enemy.” US Attorney General Merrick Garland laid out the allegations against Victor Manuel Rocha, a onetime member of the White House’s National Security Council now accused of using his positions within the government to support Cuba’s “clandestine intelligence-gathering mission” against the US. The charges against Rocha, 73, expose “one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign