A consultation meeting was held by Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) with the Minister for Education and Employment, Honourable Evarist Bartolo,to discuss the UOM Act which was proposed by the government earlier this week. Amongst the proposals of the UOM act is the addition of two new boards, and executive board and a governing board, to the current governing bodies; the Senate, Council and Faculty Boards. Another meeting is to take place with KSU in order to discuss the proposals further.
Minister Bartolo clarified that “This is a consultation paper. This means that we have to work on it, improve it and ensure that what we are doing is steps forwards for the university. There is no intention of crushing the university with some kind of heavy hand from outside”. He added by saying that “University is for the students, but only, it is also here for the country. Without University, we wouldn’t even have a sovereign state. University has a fundamental social, cultural, economic, and political role – there are very important industries that would have moved out of Malta without the research undertaken by this University.”
Bartolo continued by saying that during the last four years the government has taken steps to strengthen the university as a reality in its own right and that the budget dedicated to university in the last four years increased from 54 million to 76 million a year. He emphasised that if one wants to hurt the university, one does not do it by adding boards, but through the budget and the aforementioned proves that this is not his intention. Bartolo stated that for the campus in Valletta is going to be passed on to the University of Malta, allowing the university to start building its own endowments.KSU has set up a specific sub-committee to discuss the proposed act. A document was written and feedback was given together with the approval of students organisations at University, Students Representatives, KE and KPS.
Regarding the Governing board, they pointed out that there might be conflicts with the Senate which currently takes care of academic matters, and thus it would be better if the Governing Board adopts a consultative role when it come to the approval of plans brought up by the Senate and Council. The Senate and Council would require consultation with the Governing Board before voting on any plans in their respective boards.
Furthermore, KSU said that University requires its own autonomy to function properly, and that the people on the board must have expertise in managing an academic institution. One, however, has to keep in mind that University is a publicly funded institution, hence the KSU suggested that two members of the Governing Board are selected by the Prime Minister, instead of five. They also pointed out the concern that although the rector is Chair of the Senate and member of council, he does not form part of this board. They suggested that the Rector forms part of the governing board together with another person selected from the council.
KSU suggested the implementation of a new student charter to keep up with changing circumstances and better accreditation for Students Activism. They also put forward the proposal of having a place on council and senate for a KSU representative ex-Ufficju. KSU agreed with the proposed increase in work based learning and research, but they pointed out that no concrete proposals were included in the consultation document. It was also proposed that part-time and casual lecturers should attend seminars or workshops so as to ensure high quality teaching.
A point was also made on the lack of student feedback wherein KSU proposed the implementation of feedback exercises before the examination periods so that feedback is received in course structure, content and delivery. KSU suggested better accreditation for student activism and representation at University. Regarding the suggestion of online lectures, KSU said that these would be ideal for foreign lecturers, but using online lecturing as a regular teaching method might discourage participation and discussion from the students.
The Government’s Consultation document proposed that Deans and Heads of Department can only have that role for two terms (8 years). On this point KSU said that this might cause Deans and Head of Departments being replaced only as they have finished their terms and end up being by people who are not as competent. KSU suggested that people in this position may apply for the position again through a presentations of their past achievements in the role and then the Governing Board will decide whether to recommend that particular person to take up the role again.