Brain drain threat fails to faze Malta

April 7, 2000

With European Union membership just round the corner, Malta is undergoing a thorough screening. Thirty-one areas of life are being assessed to see if they are compatible with EU regulations.

Change is inevitable. Subsidies to ship-builders will be phased out, competition will be introduced in telecommunications, and levies on certain EU imports designed to protect Maltese manufacturing must be abolished by 2003.

In tertiary education, however, fears that Malta might be prevented from continuing its generous stipends to local students have proved unfounded.

The payment of MPounds 60 (Pounds 90) a month will be continued, placing Maltese students in a stronger financial position than most other EU students. Moreover, the Stipends Commission decided in 1999 that students who study abroad will also receive this sum.

Once Malta joins the EU, the country could experience a brain drain similar to that of other southern European countries, including Spain and Portugal, as students head for overseas universities. Leslie Agius, director of the international office at the University of Malta, said: "It is expensive for our students to study abroad. If we have a fear, it is that there will be an influx of European students wanting to study here.

"There are a lot of advantages to staying in Malta. The cost of living is low, the weather is good and our external examiners come from the top British universities.

"The numbers of Maltese undergraduates studying abroad is minute once you discount veterinary and medical science, which are two subjects that cannot be studied in Malta," said Mr Agius.

Malta takes pride in the fact that its university is the oldest in the Commonwealth outside Oxford and Cambridge. It has a policy of encouraging staff and postgraduates to study abroad.

Rector Roger Ellul Micalles said: "At any one time, we are sponsoring 60 staff or postgraduates. We tend to encourage people to complete their doctoral studies abroad. We like to broaden the opportunities at this level."

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