Students 'promised' UK future

August 27, 2004

Nottingham and Leeds Metropolitan universities have demanded that the European University of Lefke in Turkish Northern Cyprus delete references to them from recruitment materials. The moves come amid allegations that promises of automatic entry to degree courses in the UK are misleading overseas students. Luton University is also consulting lawyers on the use of its logo by EUL.

Fears for the reputation of UK universities prompted an academic to resign and to write to UK universities with links to his former institution.

David Christie, former head of the School of Oriental and African Studies foundation programme at EUL, said: "Armed with glossy new brochures and a handful of colourful logos, the EUL marketing team is now playing its trump card and promising students excellent transfer opportunities to UK universities. But this is a cynical ploy. Few such agreements have been signed. And even if they had, the average EUL student is of such low calibre that they would never qualify for a place at a British university."

University education is big business in Northern Cyprus. Its five universities have tended to recruit large numbers of Turks rejected by mainland universities, and it promotes itself in the Middle East and South Asia as a gateway to Europe. Automatic progression to a degree course at a UK university is a strong attraction for international students.

Nottingham has signed a memorandum of understanding with EUL designed to build the university's computer science programme. But Nottingham's international office staff were alarmed to discover publicity material promising guaranteed progression to programmes in the UK.

Tackled over what Nottingham regards as misleading and inaccurate claims, EUL apologised and agreed to destroy the materials.

A Nottingham spokesman said: "In the light of this, we will be monitoring any further contact (with EUL) extremely carefully."

Nottingham is prepared to consider applications from EUL students with specified academic and English-language qualifications to its programmes in the UK through the Universities and Colleges Admissions System. But the university spokesman said: "There is no guarantee, and (admission) is subject to very strong competition."

In the past two weeks, EUL has removed Leeds Metropolitan University's logo from its website. But Geoff Hitchins, LMU's deputy vice-chancellor, confirmed that cooperation with EUL to deliver a progression agreement to a computer course at LMU continues.

He said: "An experienced member of faculty staff has been assigned the task of managing this link to assure a quality experience for all concerned."

But Mr Christie challenges the reliance on future quality assurance agreements: "Aggressive marketing in the Third World is attracting growing numbers of students from countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan who see in North Cyprus their 'last best hope' and put their trust in British fair play. Unfortunately for them and unfortunately for us, they are deluded on both counts."

Three other UK universities appear on the EUL website. It claims that "student (sic) may study one or two years any undergraduate programmes at EUL campus and then may study the last two years in UK, and obtain the bachelor's degree from the Luton University".

Luton signed a memorandum of cooperation with EULin 2003, but has yet to finalise anything more concrete. Alerted to the Luton logo on the website, a university spokesman said: "The university has signed no formal contract with EUL. We have asked our solicitor to investigate a claim that EUL's marketing materials are misleading."

Under an agreement between EUL and Westminster University, some EUL students are able to study in the UK for a semester. There is a second agreement under which students study computer science for two years at EUL before joining the second year of a course in London. Westminster said it had no concerns about EUL.

Soas has offered its one-year foundation course at EUL since 2003. Soas director Colin Bundy said: "This course and Soas' links with EUL are tightly regulated under a framework agreement that includes an explicit appendix on quality control."

Yildirim Oner, EUL's rector, denied that the extent of its co-operation agreements and opportunities for study in Britain were being exaggerated.

He said the claims on the website were the result of "a misunderstanding" between his office and the web-page designers. "They put things on the internet without asking permission. I have no time to check the web pages all the time. There is a certain lack of professionalism," Mr Oner said.

EUL has been accredited by the Turkish higher education authority Yok since 1993.

david.jobbins@thes.co.uk

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