Will Legal Notice 150 affect the University of Malta?
During this past year, the Education sector in Malta was faced with a number of reforms to promote a pluralistic provision in Further and Higher Education. In light of this, on the 8th of May 2015 a new Legal Notice (LN150 of 2015) was tabled in Parliament by the Minister for Education and Employment, which led to substantial modifications being made to a Subsidiary Legislation which rules the requirements for Further and Higher Education Institution to gain the University Status. This new Legal Notice led to a situation of reducing the requirements for institutions to be recognised as Universities.
Following this the Students’ Council was approached by a number of students inquiring whether this will decrease the level of education services offered and the resources required by the new Universities, thereby decreasing the overall standard of the Maltese Education. The Legal Notice brings forward a number of changes that will reduce a number of requirements for higher education institutions to apply for university status. One of the main amendments is that institutions require either stable research training or stable research and development activities of a high standard together with an academic staff and an academic library, compared to the previous one where both research training and development activity were requirements. Another change was that the institutions previously required to offer Higher Diplomas, Bachelors and Masters in at least six fields are now able to offer them in four fields and also have a choice to choose from any of the qualification level offered. Adding to this the minimum number of doctoral degrees required for an institution to be recognised as a university, has been removed.
KSU believes that the enacted amendments will give a lot of commercial and economic potential to the detriment of academic and educational standards. A Third Generation University has to be built on three pillars: Teaching and Learning; Research and Innovation and Outreach Services. The aforementioned amendments will weaken these elements and this would only mean that Malta will potentially open its doors to commercial entities without any substantial educational function to operate as a University, operating a definition of a University which is different from the established norm in most countries, possibly putting the country’s academic reputation at risk.
The Students’ Council is also concerned that no proper study has been conducted to ensure that this will not be detrimental to the University of Malta, which is the only state-funded University in Malta. It should be ensured that the institution does not lose foreign students to private institutions, leaving a financial burden which makes it impossible to operate successfully. In conclusion although KSU believes that the University of Malta is more than capable of competing with private foreign universities, KSU still however calls on the Government to continue investing and ensuring the autonomy of the state university to ensure competition in a level playing field.