On the 25th November 2011, the KSU Education Office met with the National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) chairman Dr. Philip Von Brockdorff and commission officer Christine Scholz who is responsible for student affairs and related research. The meeting took place at the NCHE/MQC building in St. Lucia. The National Commission for Higher Education has the mission to promote more and better further and higher education to empower all students with knowledge and skills for their future. The Malta Qualifications Council (MQC) is responsible for defining the levels of qualifications and to steer the development of the National Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (NQF) amongst other important work.
The main aim of this meeting was to increase closer collaboration between KSU and the mentioned entities in order to help in improvements in Malta’s education especially in relation to its quality and the current structures. The Education Act revision was mentioned and it was noted with disappointment that although the 1st reading has passed through parliament, we still have to wait for the final versions. One of the most important revisions is that NCHE and MQC will be unified in one entity and these will be having the legal recognition to act as an external audit for the evaluation of all programs offered in Malta. This will also help with regularising the current degrees offered by the University of Malta and MCAST to ensure that a clear distinction is made between academic and vocational degrees. It was noted that collaboration between these two institutions will actually help this process.
The financing of postgraduate studies was also discussed as postgraduate studying is becoming more important in today’s society and it is also KSU’s responsibility to represent students who are considering keeping on studying and also all students who are currently registered in a postgraduate course at the University of Malta. While noting that the last STEPS call had just been made, it was clear that government funding through the Malta Government Scholarship Scheme (MGSS) will keep on increasing. In the Budget for 2012, the government allocated 900,000eur for scholarship funding. Students are also encouraged to look for other possibilities of grants and funding where possible, especially in the European region. It was mentioned that students who do not obtain a grant for their studies can still benefit from a “Higher Education Tax Deduction” scheme where some of the expenses are paid back as a tax credit. The University of Malta’s resource capacity for postgraduate studies was also mentioned as something that needs to be improved.
Finally, the current student representation at Council and Senate level at the University of Malta was discussed. KSU have been saying for long that there should be an increase in the number of representatives to represent the increase in the amount of students. This increase is very difficult to be achieved as a review of the Education Act is needed for this to happen. It was suggested that the current and future Council and Senate representatives attend all meetings and provide relevant contributions to show that an increase in the number of representatives will actually give better results for the University as a whole. Let us not forget that the students are and therefore should be considered as stakeholders in the education system and not just mere consumers.