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Cyprus-based university recruiting J’can students

No doubt you’ve seen the pop-up ads.

“Don’t miss this amazing opportunity for a scholarship. Apply Now. A UNICAF scholarship can change your life. $35 million already awarded in scholarships”. Another version says: “Scholarship Opportunities. Apply now for this Great Opportunity for Students in Jamaica”. Yet another: “Apply now for a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Online MBA Degree!”

They are being floated by UNICAF, a university based in Cyprus which partners with tertiary institutions in the UK, continental Europe, and the US to offer online masters and doctoral degrees to students in Africa and the Caribbean.

Through its scholarship programme, which it says has awarded US$35 million to date, Unicaf finances up to 80 per cent of tuition costs.

“The need for a higher education is an ever-growing one in today’s society and there is no shortage of facilities seeking to entice the career-minded individual to enrol with them. However, many tend to overlook what is arguably one of the most significant questions that faces the majority of would-be students — how to pay for this desperately needed opportunity without graduating under a mountain of debt. This obstacle is one of the ways in which UNICAF differs from its competition, offering a fast response to scholarship applications to incoming students in an effort to ease that burden,” Unicaf rep in Jamaica Madeline Green told the Jamaica Observer.

“The UNICAF brand also has the added bonus of offering its internationally accredited university degree programmes on a flexible online platform,” she added.

Unicaf university is part of the Edex group of educational institutions founded in 1980. The online platform, however, was introduced in 2012, with its entry into the Caribbean market two years later.

Founder and CEO Nicos Nicolaou told Career & Education recently that Unicaf has some 7,000 students enrolled across its programmes, some 100 of whom are Jamaicans.

“We’re starting to set up learning centres in some countries so students can get some face-to-face instruction. We’re working to set up one in Jamaica because we have a lot of students, about 100, who are all on some kind of scholarship,” he said.

“While UNICAF has only recently begun to offer its services in Jamaica, it is already well-established and thriving educational providers in a number of countries worldwide. The educational opportunities that UNICAF has established includes campuses and learning centres in Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Nigeria, Malawi, Egypt, Kenya, Hong Kong, and also works with a number of renowned partners in the delivery of international education,” the university said.

Unicaf’s partners include the University of South Wales in the UK, Marymount California University in the US, and the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.

Through South Wales, Unicaf offers an MBA, an MA Education (Innovation in Learning and Teaching), and an MSc Business Psychology. At both Marymount California and Nicosia, the offering is the same — MBA.

At Unicaf University itself, the programmes range from bachelor’s degrees in computer science, hospitality management, and business administration; master’s in education and organisational psychology; and PhDs in marketing management, information technology, education, business administration, accounting and finance, and organisational change and leadership.

Asked if Unicaf has been approved to offer programmes in Jamaica, Nicolaou said the university had made preliminary contact with “the relevant authorities” here, but was asked for supplementary information, which it was in the process of compiling.

When contacted, the quality assurance body for tertiary education here, the University Council of Jamaica, told Career & Education that it does not have a formal relationship with Unicaf.

On its website, the UCJ explained that overseas institutions delivering online programmes (100 per cent online) are required to have the programme assessed by the UCJ against local standards in order to be recognised in Jamaica.

“The review came about as a result of increasing concerns about the quality of some online programmes currently being offered and whether they are comparable in standards to those offered in the conventional face-to-face setting,” the council said.

“The UCJ’s mandate as an external quality assurance agency means that it must develop, communicate, and use a set of standards for distance education to ensure that quality is preserved, and ensure that such programmes are viewed as comparable to those in institutions where instruction is offered face-to-face. The UCJ holds distance education programmes to the same high standards as those delivered by face-to-face modality,” it continued.

Unicaf, meanwhile, maintains that the flexibility and affordability it offers make it more attractive than the traditional brick and mortar version of education especially in today’s post-modern era.

“With UNICAF you can keep your job, care for your family, study whenever and wherever it is convenient for you,” the university says on twitter.

Further, digital marketing manager George E Kyriacou says, “UNICAF has made a dramatic impact over the last few years by providing scholarships to students [who ]could normally not afford the full tuition fees of distinguished universities. This has not only had a great impact on their lives, but also on the wider local community by giving more people access to higher education.”

To qualify for Unicaf scholarships, candidates have to be earning less than US$20,000 per year, be available to commence their academic studies within six months from the date of receiving admission to one of the programmes offered, and meet the entry requirements of the respective programme of study.

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