AT THE environment commissioner’s office, staffed by the commissioner himself, a secretary and the odd volunteer, parents - usually mothers - have been asking whether studies related to the environment might boost their children’s career prospects.
“It is very interesting how much the number of young people who want to study something related to the environment has climbed,” environment commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou said.
Academic departments at the University of Cyprus (UCY) and the Technological University of Cyprus (TEPAK) have also confirmed a growing interest in fields relating to the environment.
The head of UCY’s civil engineering and environmental engineering department, associate professor Symeon Christodoulou, said that applications for postgraduate degrees have increased in the current academic year.
A master of engineering or master of science spanning various departments has garnered some 100 applications this year for 20 available positions compared to roughly half that number of applications three years ago, Christodoulou said.
The degree incorporates civil and environmental engineering, mechanical and manufacturing engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and architectural engineering, Christodoulou said, all subjects that touch directly or indirectly on environmental matters.
“There is an increased interest,” Christodoulou said, although he added that this may just mean that more students are becoming aware of these degrees as a possible option.
Cyprus’ 2004 entry in the European Union has created a need to harmonise legislation with environmental policies in the bloc creating the need for people who can conduct studies on the impact of major works on the environment, Christodoulou said.
He said that more jobs should be created over and beyond the more “traditional” subjects dealing for example with water management. There are renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, or measuring buildings’ energy performances.
Private universities are now offering post-graduate degrees in oil and gas and offshore engineering, while the University of Nicosia has been advertising a Master’s in Business Administration focusing on oil, gas and energy management, all capitalising on the discovery last year of substantial natural gas reserves south of Cyprus.
And Nicosia municipality launched last year the bio vernacular project to map buildings’ energy performance in order to encourage sustainable development and cut down on energy consumption.
TEPAK’s Alexandros Charalambides, an environmental scientist who has created ENERMAP, an award winning concept to map online the energy consumption of buildings across the EU, said that TEPAK has been seeing both higher numbers but also higher quality applicants interested in environmental science and technology.
About 150 people applied for a master in energy resource management this academic year, compared with some 30 to 40 applying in the year before that, Charalambides said.
The applicants applying now have better school-leaving certificates, getting a higher average of 18 out of 20 versus the average of 16 out of 20 that used to be closer to the norm, Charalambides said. The degree has been available for five years.
Both TEPAK’s Charalambides and UCY’s Christodoulou said part of the increase may be because the construction industry is in recession, encouraging people to specialise in other areas.
But Theopemptou, the environment commissioner, put a different spin to this.
“An extremely important point that we need to bear in mind are the EU’s policies on reducing carbon emissions, being proactive against climate change, increasing efficient energy use and creating buildings with nearly zero energy use,” Theopemptou said.
This should bring about a “revolution in the construction industry in Cyprus”, he said.
An architect can work in bio vernacular projects and on designing energy efficient buildings. A mechanical engineer can specialise on renewable energy sources, cooling and heating systems for buildings, the commissioner said.
Electrical engineers are needed to design power management systems including those in the renewable energy field and “of course it is they who produce electricity by specialising in production, energy transfer and renewable energy sources,” he added.
Those interested in specialising in environmental management or public health can choose to do a number of environment-linked degrees, Theopemptou said.
“There is a wealth of choices for people with first degrees in something that is at first blush unrelated to the environment,” Theopemptou said.
“Some may be surprised over postgraduate degrees offered to economists for environmental economics or dealing in carbon emissions markets, to psychologists for environmental psychology, or to lawyers in relation to environmentally related legislations,” he said.
“The more (environmentally conscious) scientists we have, the easier it should be to promote a green economy.”