University considers linking free tuition to qualification in Maltese

Rector Alfred Vella. Video: Jonathan Borg

The University of Malta is considering linking a qualification in Maltese to the waiver of fees, which Rector Alfred Vella believes is an important way to safeguard the future of the language.

“What if we were to introduce a requirement saying that anyone who is eligible on all the criteria, including Maltese, would not pay fees and would get a stipend? Those who do not meet the requirement would be able to study but would pay fees and not get a stipend,” he mused.

“Is Maltese at risk? If not, then this measure would not be tolerated. But if it is, then it would probably find favour with whoever is looking at what we are doing. I can provide numerous articles which suggest that it is.”

In no way does the University want to discriminate between Maltese and non-Maltese

The introduction of Maltese as a requisite is not a new concept: medical Maltese has already been introduced as a criterion for entry into the medical course, and is taught to prospective foreign students who want to study medicine.

Prof. Vella said that the university was seeking legal advice on the matter as it in no way wanted to discriminate between Maltese and non-Maltese.

There is no doubt that the move could be interpreted as a way to deter non-fee-paying foreign students. He insists that this is not his motive, stressing that one in every 10 students at the university is foreign, of which 900 come from the EU and do not have to pay fees, in line with the situation for Maltese.

But while EU students do not contribute financially to the University coffers, about 500 third country nationals – from Russia, the Middle East, US and China, for example – generate 20 per cent of the university’s revenue, hardly something that he would want to deter.

This is clearly a dilemma as marketing would boost student intake figures from both the EU and beyond, he admitted.