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Future Europe features a podcast episode from each of the EU’s 28 Member States. Each episode tells the story of a project that illuminates the way Europeans will live in the future. All the stories are told through the voices of people involved in the projects.
Opportunity in Cyprus university finance
Five years ago, Cyprus appeared to be a place of few opportunities. The aftermath of the international financial crisis had left the island’s economy on its knees. Younger Cypriots saw little future for themselves in the country.
Andreas Antonopoulos, an economics undergraduate student remembers that period well. “We couldn’t see why we would stay in our country to study,” he says. “We doubted whether we would we earn enough, and if there would be work at the end of our studies.”
“But then things began to change. I’m forever grateful that such opportunities are now available closer to home.”
In the midst of Cyprus’s financial woes, help finally came from the European Investment Bank, which actually increased its investment.
The EU bank invested a total of €1.75 billion in a range of projects, from new hospitals to power stations. One truly key project has been helping develop the University of Cyprus with a loan of €162 million.
Cyprus university finance ‘joins island together’
On the outskirts of Nicosia, the new campus looks over the buffer zone that divides the city and the island of Cyprus.
At the height of the financial crisis, a planned expansion of the university had been put on hold. University Rector Constantinos Christofides says the EIB came to the rescue.
Professor Christofides recalls a conversation in 2013 with EIB President Werner Hoyer. “We had an excellent discussion about how the university can be the meeting points of all corners of Cyprus, that this project can join together the island. And that’s what we did.”
Today, the university has become a beacon for talent. Leading scientific researchers with roots in Cyprus are coming “back home” to work and study.
“When I started working at the engineering department it was very small,” says Demetrios Eliades, a post-doctoral researcher at the KIOS Research and Innovation Center of Excellence. “Now we are attracting people from everywhere around Europe, from the US, China, Brazil. I’m really excited because the university is heading towards the future in a very dynamic way, both in terms of teaching and in terms of innovation.”
A crisis changes into an opportunity
Thanks to the investment by the EIB a range of work is underway including:
- A new library, the Hall of Knowledge, that will also be open to the public
- A cutting-edge faculty of engineering with research facilities in transport, energy and water management
- An energy efficiency project that will enable the university to be the first of its kind completely reliant on solar energy
- A purpose-built medical school fitted.
Nicos Yiambides, a senior loan officer with the EIB and a proud Cypriot, says he’s pleased to see how the investment is helping his home country rebuild.
“More than a third of our investment has been signed since the financial crisis,” Yiambides says, “which demonstrates the EIB’s approach and that it trusts the sacrifices of the Cypriot people.”
For the University, the effect of the EIB help has been felt far and wide, according to Christina Marina Zachariadou Sierepekli, who is in charge of its planning office.
“This loan has allowed the University of Cyprus to dream and to have a vision for its future growth,” she says. “It has changed the crisis situation into an opportunity situation. I believe that the university is a place where betterment can begin, this is the place to give hope to the society.”
The space for that improvement has grown, as the university has expanded from 486 students to 10,000, with people coming to it from around 50 countries.
The outlook in Cyprus has gone, in the space of just a few years, from deep pessimism to excitement about what lies head.
“The work happening at the university is one of the most significant and biggest projects in the last five years,” says Savia Orphanidou, an economic officer at the Cyprus Ministry of Finance. “We’re very grateful and are looking to the future with hope.”