Bringing two sides of the island together

From L-R: UCLan Cyprus rector Melinda Tan, Cyprus Welfare Officer Micki & Rachel Stokes
From L-R: UCLan Cyprus rector Melinda Tan, Cyprus Welfare Officer Micki & Rachel Stokes
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In the third part of her report on UCLan Cyprus, Education Reporter SONJA ASTBURY talks to the staff who are helping to make it a success story for locals as well as incomers.

UCLan Cyprus is built in Pyla, which is the only village on the island where Greek Cypriots and Turks live side by side.

The Greek Cypriot school sits opposite the Turkish school and the Greek church is close to the mosque.

There are even Greek and Turkish coffee shops.

Although technically in a buffer zone, (between the Turkish occupied side of the island) the village is not subject to the usual strict regulations and there is plenty of building going on...much of it driven by the UCLan development ...with more to come.

The university is already providing sports facilities for the village and is in the throes of expanding the campus.

Rector Melinda Tan said locals make use of the university’s state-of-the art, award-winning, lecture facilities for their own events, such as school productions and conferences.

The latest plans involve creating an oil and gas energy centre. Melinda said: “Energy is one of the big things in this country right now and we are one of the first universities to be offering a professional oil and gas diploma. We are training blue collar workers and there is going to be a need for a lot of technicians etc who will be Cypriots.

“However UCLan is also talking to a lot of other countries across the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East about expanding the project further.

It is envisaged that oil and gas could help play a key role with the reunification of the island.”

‘This is a serious set-up here’

Rachel Stokes, 23, from Ashton in Preston, is on an internship in Cyprus which sees young people spend three months there at a time.

She said: “ I was a student at the Uni in Preston doing psychology This is like a graduate role.

“We organise the leadership course, bringing the UK students over for three days. They come over to Cyprus and stay at the student accommodation, sometimes meeting with Cypriot students.

“I had to apply for the role. I had been to Cyprus before and enjoyed it. I go back to Preston and another girl will come out.”

Effie Christou, senior student support officer, is from Larnaka and as an educational psychologist ran a private practice and joined UCLan Cyprus at the outset

Irane Polycarpou, gave up her life in Colorado in the US to return to her native Cyprus and join a new university at its inception.

The assistant professor for computing and course leader said: “This is a big thing not just for the country but internationally.

“We want to offer degrees that are going to be popular locally but we are also targeting international markets as well.

“I made a decision to come back only if I was able to continue my career in Cyprus.”

Law is one of the most popular courses at the institution and head of the law school Dr Tim Potier and his team have been adapting the traditional UCLan course to cater for the Cypriot market.

He says: “We have spent the past couple of years tailoring the LLB course quite extensively but we are hoping that by October 2014 we will have something highly marketable.”.

He left the UK in 1995, living for two years in the Soviet Union doing his Phd and has spent 17 years in Cyprus, previously head of the law department at the ‘rival’ University of Nicosia.

He says: “ I think this is a very serious university. Not only does it have a reputation back in the UK but internationally. it is a very serious set-up here.

“This is a proper university with a capital P” and it is the same experience for the students as studying in Preston in the UK, or as close as it can be.”

‘Micki knows everyone’

DESPITE the fact that there are armed guards patrolling the village borders, staff and students know they are in safe hands....not only is the UN peace-keeping force watching over Pyla, but the “go to ” man in charge of their welfare has credentials impressive enough to warrant a place in a James Bond script.

Micki, as welfare and community officer Miodrag Stijovic is known, quit his job as a top international police chief to get involved at the start as UCLan Cyprus got off the ground.

He swapped his last job as UN Sector Four commander for that of head of security at UCLan Cyprus after a long career as a police officer and trained lawyer, in his native Montenegro and has an action-packed CV which includes working with the FBI, Interpol and Europol.

Micki is a font of local knowledge. He knows everyone who is anyone -and all those in between - in Pyla.

He told me: “At the time when they decided to build UCLan I was a UN police commander of Sector Four, the biggest UN area over here - so I was quite important, and they decided to build UCLan very close to where I was the main commander.”

He quit the police after 27 years and used his knowledge to help the Greek Cypriot owners and has now settled in Cyprus.

He’s just about to finish a masters degree he originally started in Montenegro and is hoping to do poem teaching next year.

There are a total of 83 staff from a host of different nationalities, from Italian and German to Australian/Cypriot and Russian to Finnish, Turkish and Greek.