A bit of a Brit abroad

June 9, 2006

Alan Osborn turns the spotlight on Malta in the latest in our series

The University of Malta, which was established in 1592, has a distinctive British personality and is the oldest seat of learning in the Commonwealth outside the UK.

Until independence in 1964, Malta was a British colony and the university prospered under royal patronage.

Roger Ellul-Micallef, the rector, told The Times Higher : "The curriculum is not identical to that taught in the UK but it is similar. All the teaching is done in English.

"We've had no problem with the Bologna three-cycle process because this is the way all our courses have always been organised - a first undergraduate course lasts three or four years, a masters one or two years and then between three and four years for a PhD."

Professor Ellul-Micallef, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians in London, noted a further link with the UK. "We have a system of visiting external examiners in every subject, who come here to make assessments in the final year. More than 90 per cent of these are from the top UK universities.

"This has meant that our standards of teaching, and what we are teaching, are in line with what is being taught in the UK. It has also meant that those of our students who have sought postgraduate places in the UK have had no problem with their degrees being recognised."

During his ten years as rector, Professor Ellul-Micallef focused on internationalising the university to make it the driving cultural force in the region.

"We have certain advantages," he said. "Our geographical location for instance. We are in the middle of the Mediterranean. History has touched these shores. Malta is a safe country, we teach in English and we have good contacts with both Arab and Jewish universities, and with our Italian and French colleagues."

As Malta is now a full member of the European Union, students participate in EU educational programmes such as Erasmus, Leonardo and Comenius.

The university is associated with the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies and is home to the International Maritime Organisation International Maritime Law Institute.

Professor Ellul-Micallef voiced complaints about funding. "We are being asked to deliver more and more and being given less and less, and we have been nudged to go down the road that leads to the marketplace. We try to be as entrepreneurial as we can," he said.

Malta has just one university "and we have to cater for all needs, not just turning out the professionals that the country requires but also IT personnel".

KEY FIGURES

  • Number of students at the university: 9,608
  • Population: 399,867
  • Full-time foreign students at university: 8 per cent
  • Maltese 18-year-olds in tertiary education: 20 per cent

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