The University of Malta hopes to enhance its role as a leading centre for European Union studies by introducing a research degree in the subject.
Although Malta has yet to join the EU, the university has operated a European documentation and research centre for the past eight years.
The centre began life as one of a series of European documentation centres established to catalogue and publish official European Community literature.
Centre chairman, Peter Xuereb, said: "The focus of our activities is the study of European integration." But he added that in the pre-Maastricht era, the then rector, Peter Serracino Inglott, believed that along with research into the way the European Economic Community was evolving into the EU, there was a need for courses in European integration studies and for research on the question of Malta's relations with what is now the EU.
Originally from Malta, Professor Xuereb was based at Exeter University's centre for European law and at Queen Mary College, London, before returning to his home country to head the EU project. "My task was to develop a combined documentation centre and a centre for teaching and research," he said.
Since its inception in 1993, the centre has grown to offer degree courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level, an MPhil research degree, and to act as a focus for research in European studies.
Under Professor Xuereb, the centre has gained a reputation for EU-Mediterranean studies, having secured funding from the European Commission for research that brings together academics from member states and from Mediterranean states - such as Malta - that are considering applying for EU membership.
Professor Xuereb said: "Our interdisciplinary nature means that the centre acts as a focus for all university staff and students, forming cross-disciplinary research teams and accepting students from other faculties onto its courses under the university's credit system. It also acting as the initiator of project grant applications and the meeting place for associations such as the Malta European Studies Association."
According to Professor Xuereb, Malta's size can be an advantage. "We can involve decision-makers from all areas of national life in our activities, from industrialists to high government officials, members of the house of representatives, leading professionals and many others," he said. "We are very well-placed to live up to the research element in our brief."