An inadequate library, a poor reputation and a lack of cash

August 27, 2004

The website for the European University of Lefke makes some impressive claims, not least that its library is "rapidly becoming one of the premier research libraries in the Middle East", with a catalogue of ,000 books.

However, the library appears to be poorly stocked, with some 3,000 titles on the shelves, the majority in Turkish. Many of the English-language books are apparently irrelevant to the curriculum. Unsurprisingly, no one seems to have borrowed any of the three copies of Adventure in Service , a 1949 account of Rotary International, or the slim paperback titled Bawdy Barrack Room Ballads . Crucially, essential textbooks and reference books are not available.

There is also concern about EUL's academic standing. According to a former head of one of the Turkish Cypriot university lecturers' unions, "Turkish students who can't get into Turkish universities come to Northern Cyprus.

Students who are then rejected by the four main universities here end up at Lefke."

But foreign students from Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, less well placed to evaluate the claims, are likely to believe the advertising and marketing materials.

EUL rector Yildirim Oner claims his university "does not mislead students at all". He argues that in two years - once the first EUL students begin their studies in the UK - he will be vindicated.

A severe problem for the university's efforts to raise academic standards is the students' poor English, the language used to teach.

EUL runs a foundation school to improve students' English before they are admitted to a faculty programme. But the school has had 15 different head teachers in the past six years. A former teacher claims that students who had failed their English exams after completing a year there would be admitted to English-medium degree courses after paying a fee of several hundred dollars.

"The kids try hard," one former EUL English teacher said. "If they were given decent teaching some would do quite well, but they have no chance at all there."

The pressure to keep students largely stems from Northern Cyprus' political and economic isolation. Income from Turkish and overseas students brings in an estimated $132 million (£73 million) a year - vital revenue for an economy crippled by years of trade embargoes.

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