Six Things We Learnt From KSU’s Consultation With UoM’s Administration

On Wednesday, KSU organised a consultation session with University’s administration, which was represented by the Rector, Professor Alfred J. Vella, the Pro-Rector for Student and Staff Affairs and Outreach, Dr. Carmen Sammut, and the Registrar, Ms. Veronica Grech.  This consulation was held on Quad and it was open for all students, who could pose questions to the administration.


The Results Delivery System Is Not Going To Change


The discussion kicked off with a subject that has been much lamented upon by students; exam results.  A well known part of the University’s system of delivering results is that each department sends its results out in one chunk, as opposed to separately whenever they are ready.  The question posed was regarding this matter – would it be possible to instead have these results published as they come in, and not have to endure a prolonged wait for the compilation of the whole department’s results.


It turns out though, that there is a valid reason for this procedure.  Addressing the gathered students, Professor Vella said that results were published together so that what is called a moderation of grades is conducted – that is an analysis of all the student’s grades.  This way, if for instance a student who consistently manages 70s in all his exams bar one, which he gets a 40, that mark can be singled out and double-checked to make sure that there is no error in the marking.


The registrar, Ms. Grech, meanwhile answered a query from moderator and KSU President Robert Napier about why certain results were coming out in August – so close to the resits at the beginning of September, and hence not allowing students any time at all to prepare for those resits.  She said that there are only very isolated examples of results coming out in the month of August, and that in the case a lecturer has a problem with reaching correction deadlines for whatever reason, it is made sure that alternatives are found.


Student Activism Will Not Be Recognised With ECTS Credits


One of the main bones of contention was on what the University was doing, if anything, to encourage students to join student organisations and partake in student activism in general.  This issue was raised initially by SDM President Neil Smart Constantino, and it’s an which has been raised many a time in the past, with several student organisations having made pleas for student activism to be recognised through ECTS credits or other forms.


Dr. Sammut first spoke of the two ways that the administration is helping student organisations.  The first is that throughout this year, regulations for student societies were put in place so they work more transparently and according to their statute, and to make sure that nobody external “hijacks” student organisations as has happened in some cases in the past. The second is through a number of bursaries and financial help that are provided to organisations to help them organise certain activities that may not be sustainable financially, such as workshops or seminars.


Professor Vella then entered the discussion by getting to the crux of the matter, saying that he disagreed with the suggestion that work in student organisations should be recognised through ECTS credits or any other form.  Such recognition would, in his opinion, “diminish the experience” of student activism and would simply mean that people would go into student activism for the credits, and not for the unique and valuable assets that one can gain from it; assets that can’t be gained through a lecture or a classroom.


This view effectively shuts the door on any proposal that would see work in student organisations recognised through ECTS credits.


Health & Safety Is On The Administration’s Agenda


The topic about health and safety came up quite a bit towards the middle part of the discussion, and it was kicked off through a question from Steve Borg, a social policy student, relating to second hand smoking.  He spoke of how in other countries across Europe, Universities have smoke-free campuses, even outdoors, and wondered whether such a thing would ever come to fruition so to avoid second hand smoking and the health detriments that it brings with it.


The Rector responded, first speaking from his knowledge as a chemist and saying that any generator of gasses and vapours contribute to the amount of pollutants in the air; but that unless one is surrounded by smokers, the damage is not concentrated.  He reiterates that many years ago he was one of the people at the forefront of introducing laws to prohibit smoking indoors and that he was well aware of the health risks that second hand smoking posed; but even when those smoking laws were introduced there was huge opposition, like there would be if there were any attempts made to make the University of Malta’s campus smoke-free.


Another interesting comment passed within this theme was about the surface of Quad.  It was pointed out that the flooring of Quad was not only worse for wear, but it was a health hazard either due to flooding in the case of rain or due to protruding tiles that make it a tripping risk for passers-by.  The question was raised by KSU’s Joseph Teuma, who then asked if any improvement or re-surfacing was penned in for Quad to make it safer.


Quad may get a revamp with new flooring in the future


The Pro-Rector replied to this saying that coincidentially a report about the campus’ accessibility had just been presented to her by a group of students and that this surface was one of the things listed in there.  The problem will be kept in mind, she said, however till then there are more pressing matters that  needed to be addressed from this report beforehand.


The Pro-Rector also made reference to a new health centre that was going to be opened soon, near where Mireva Bookshop used to be, and that this would offer an array of services both psychological and health-related; such as tobacco cessation.


There Will Be No New Parking Spaces On Campus; KSU’s Park & Ride Idea May Be Ready By Next Scholastic Year


The inevitable matter of parking on campus was eventually raised as well.  The parking problem on campus is well documented, but the Rector confirmed that there are no plans whatsoever to increase the number of parking spaces available on campus.  This is due namely to the fact that the local plan for the area doesn’t permit the addition of more parking spaces.  Instead, he believes it’s time to start discouraging the use of cars to get to university instead.


Parking has always been a sensitive issue on campus


At this point, KSU President Robert Napier chimed in to point out that KSU had implemented a number of measures to help students to take advantage of alternative means of transport; measures such as the 10,000 euro Transport Fund, subsidized motorcycle lessons and the car pooling system.  However, Napier said, it is now up to the student to take advantage of these new measures.


Napier also confirmed that plans for a new Park & Ride, which had been announced by KSU some months ago, are progressing, with all the required paperwork having been submitted to Transport Malta for the conversion of a piece of land in Mosta into a space for parking and a hub for a Park & Ride system.  His hope is that this project will be completed and ready for use by the first semester of the next scholastic year.


KSU Has A Number Of New Ideas Regarding Sustainability


Several ideas were proposed in relation to the university’s sustainability as well.  KSU’s Luke Abela asked whether there were any plans from the administration to install recycling bins on quad and in areas such as the canteen, where waste is high.  Robert Napier meanwhile suggested that improvements can even come in the small things, such as exam scripts; asking in fact why an exam scripts needs to be 8 pages when one only may only need two or three during an exam.  KSU’s Gabriella Sutton also chimed in saying that when they had erected a big bin for plastic bottles for a week, they had managed to collect over 2,000 bottles to recycle; something which corroborates with a study conducted that said there was difficulty in accessibility for proper ways of recycling on campus and that this was hindering the matter.  She also indicated that the social policy office was working in tandem with student organisation SACES to design a recycling bin for campus; but that there were still some teething issues with this to deal with before it can go public.


The Rector was very open to all these ideas, stating that these would contribute to the University’s place in the Green Universities Ranking, which it already places well in as a result of its strong system of solar power.  Indeed, the University of Malta currently ranks in 390th place out of 619 universities.  The Registrar meanwhile spoke about the suggestion regarding exam scripts, saying that the responsibility fell to each faculty to think wisely about the requirements of each exam before asking for exam scripts.


Meanwhile the Rector also confirmed that the current charging point for electric cars is going to be moved to “a more strategic location” on campus.


Works On The Track and Football Ground Will Be Starting In The Near Future


Last but not least, it was confirmed by the Rector that there were major plans in place to upgrade the university’s running track and football grounds.  These plans will be released in the coming months, and the hope and intention is that by mid-2019 those plans will become a reality.