If you were anywhere near the medical sciences library on the day student representative election’s results came out, you might have heard an ecstatic yell from a medical student who was contented with his new appointed role. With a total of 1146 votes, third-year medical student Omar Chircop was elected as a student representative on the University of Malta Council.
“I was definitely extremely happy, but also surprised as I wasn’t expecting to have the trust of so many students,” Omar said when asked about his reaction to the news.
Following weeks of endless bombardment of campaign-related content on social media platforms, there has been a lot of talk recently about the Council, Senate and Faculty Board. What is the difference between them, what are their functions, and how does it affect the lives of university students? Insite Malta caught up with Omar to discuss these pertinent issues.
Suffice to say, something all university students can relate to is that the system can be frustrating at times. Be it reformatting exams or frequent last-minute lecture rescheduling, such problems plague every faculty. But where does one even begin to deal with these issues?
Any decision taken at university has to be tackled at a number of levels. At the bottom of this hierarchy, Omar explains, are the Faculty Boards. These are responsible for discussing academic issues relating to courses within the respective faculty. Next comes the Senate, continued Omar, which takes care of academics, curricula and research of the whole university, and raises unresolved issues of Faculty Board Meetings.
Lastly there is the Council, which Omar now forms part of. He described how in these meetings, they mainly discuss administrative issues, including salaries, employment of staff and infrastructure. They meet every 8 weeks, and he informed that the dates can be accessed online via the University of Malta website.
The Council is further divided into subcommittees, which discuss issues amongst themselves before presenting them to the rest of the members. Omar is currently part of the subcommittee on Strategic Development. At the moment, they are discussing issues pertaining to the future of the University, including improvement of teaching quality, international outlook, and the societal and industrial impacts.
“But I wouldn’t have been able to take on this role if it weren’t for my experience within the MMSA,” he humbly remarked.
The new council member stated that he has not always been interested in advocacy, but his perspective changed towards the end of his first year at university. He attended MEDIK-T, a weekend-long seminar organized by the Malta Medical Students Association (MMSA) with a heavy focus on medical education and student activism. After participating in this workshop, he decided advocacy was a line he wished to pursue; this compelled him to apply for the secretary position on the Standing Committee of Medical Education (SCOME).
After a successful year as secretary, he then took on the role of Medical Education Officer for this term. This experience, he said he believes, is what has enabled him to represent the broader student population within the Council. In his role within the MMSA, he is responsible for liaising with the Faculty on behalf of medical students. Omar claims that this experience taught him how to gather data on students’ concerns through feedback forms, and how to appropriately approach the Dean and other administrative staff so that change can be implemented. At this stage, it seemed only a natural progression to broaden his scope beyond the needs of medical students.
Ask any medical student about Omar, and they will likely comment on his friendly and approachable personality. He doesn’t hesitate to help people out whenever he can, and these remarkable qualities have further fostered his interest in running for Council – as he thought to himself, “What better way to help students than through student activism?”
Omar believes that it is important for university students to concern themselves with these entities. They should be aware of what is going on, as any decisions taken will have a direct or indirect bearing on them, too. That begs the question then; how can you, as a student, make your voice heard?
The good news is that you need not necessarily run for election; but Omar suggested that one way to do so is by voting for trustworthy, reputable student representatives in elections. Although the voter turnout was greater this year compared to last, it is still relatively low when taking into account the proportion of students who voted.
As a closing message to the 13,000 or so students whom he now represents, Omar just wanted to wholeheartedly thank the student body for their trust and support, and he hopes to represent their interests as best he can.
Additionally, should you run into any issues, contact him on Messenger and he would be happy to help out to the best of his abilities.