University as Security Threat?

UN objects to a British institution's branch in Cyprus.

January 31, 2013

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, has a lot on his plate: North Korea’s threat to test a nuclear weapon, Islamist rebels battling French-led troops in Mali … and security concerns provoked by the University of Central Lancashire’s Cyprus campus.

After the university built the campus in the United Nations-enforced buffer zone between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities, it earned the spectacular distinction of being rebuked by the UN secretary general in a report to the
Security Council.

UCLAN, one of the UK’s most active universities overseas, owns a 51 percent stake in the joint venture company. The rest is owned by a group connected with a Cypriot developer, Hassapis Group.

The campus, which opened its doors in October, has been built next to Pyla, the only village in the buffer zone inhabited by Greek and Turkish Cypriots. It currently hosts 140 students, thought to be predominantly Greek Cypriots, a development that could provoke anxiety among the Turkish Cypriot community. UCLAN has said that student numbers are envisaged to grow "toward 5,000" within five years.

In his June 2012 report on Cyprus to the UN Security Council, Ban writes that the "unauthorized construction adjacent to the ­village of Pyla of a university ­campus was of particular concern during the reporting period." The projected influx of Cypriot and foreign ­students "has raised concerns with regard to security, and law and order," he adds.

The buffer zone between Greek and Turkish Cyprus, known as the Green Line, was made impassable by the UN ­ except for designated crossing points ­ after Turkey’s ­invasion of the island in 1974. It is patrolled by the UN peacekeeping force UNFICYP.

Times Higher Education asked UNFICYP whether the situation had moved on since Ban’s report last year. A spokesman said the ­construction "remains unauthorized" and "UNFICYP continues to discuss [the situation] with interested parties."

A UCLAN spokesman said the university "has always been aware that the site of its Cyprus campus includes land within the buffer zone." He said the existing building was in the buffer zone, with some of the rest of the site outside it.

He noted that the campus "is fully licensed by all the relevant ­Cypriot authorities."

Some of the more alarming claims by critics proved groundless, however. In a letter expressing strong support for the project, Simon Mytides, president of Pyla Community Council, said: "There are no minefields adjacent to or around the university area."

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