University Strategic Plan 2022-2025
'Learning and Teaching' is one of the Strategic Themes of the Strategic Plan 2020-2025, which sets out the goals and priorities for the University, its faculties, departments, centres, institutes and schools.
The University of Malta fosters an integrated combination of higher studies and research. The Institution is sensitive to the needs of the community-at-large and regards itself as the premier learning hub for the Maltese society. Two principal roles of the University are to nurture knowledgeable, highly skilled and responsible citizens of integrity, as well as to encourage the consistent output of pertinent research of high quality.
We strive to deliver courses of study that are relevant, that reflect the milieu of the University, and that respond rapidly to changing circumstances. We are increasingly sensitive to the needs of potential and actual students coming from non-traditional backgrounds and to those already in employment. Mature persons are changing the demographic profile of the student body. This is a welcome trend. Mature students should be offered greater support and flexibility, taking into account the knowledge they have gained through prior learning and work experience.
Proactive academic support is necessary to help all students succeed in their studies, particularly those persons who are vulnerable or coming from backgrounds with low participation rates in higher education. The progressive increase in international students is a welcome trend and enriches the cultural diversity and cosmopolitan outlook of the University.
The University’s programmes of studies are designed to be dynamic frameworks for learning and teaching that are both engaging and inspiring, and thus, conducive to life-long inquiry, learning, and flexibility of mind. We strive for excellence in learning through internal and external peer-review, as well as through comfortable and student-friendly teaching spaces of high quality, equipped with the latest didactic resources.
Since the delivery of teaching has to be versatile and flexible, we will encourage the use of a variety of modalities directed at a wide spectrum of needs and activities, including outreach services provided by the University. We will endeavour to adopt more student-centred interactive sessions and discussions by adopting well-planned tutorial-based systems that encourage individual participation, inclusion and dialogue. University teaching is informed by research reflecting advances in the various disciplines and is delivered by academics with proven expertise in research.
In addition to discipline-specific learning, we will strengthen and support the acquisition of a combination of skills such as critical thinking, informed debate, communication and public speaking, as well as soft skills. These enable students to find satisfying employment at the right level upon completion of formal higher education.
The links between higher education and the labour market need to be both effective and efficient in order to match the increasing need, at all levels, of specialists with higher education. To this end, we will aim to facilitate learning in a flexible manner by being mindful of students’ actual and future needs.
Given the dynamic and virtual information landscape, the library as a key resource for learning is continuously transforming its role and responsibilities to ensure that it caters for patrons’ changing needs and expectations. Hence, further investment is required to ensure that the current excellent library services are expanded to nurture an environment favouring innovation and creativity. In turn, this would stimulate learning and teaching, at both individual and collaborative levels, as well as enhance the visibility of research carried out at the University itself.
The need for expansion of high-quality online learning and teaching is both crucial and pressing. With the support of trained practitioners and appropriate infrastructure geared to ensure effective implementation, we will consolidate existing online facilities. These require constant updates in consonance with emerging teaching technologies and the rapidly changing learning and research needs and priorities of student populations, both in terms of scope and method, as well as in the allocation of time.
We will continue to encourage professional placements, specifically tailored apprenticeships and work-based learning, locally and abroad, as these add value to the overall educational experience. We will also seek to facilitate a seamless transition between the time spent at the University and entry into appropriate employment. The University operates work-based learning programmes in several fields, including those of medicine, health sciences and pharmacy. We will provide support systems to increase the development of practical-learning units across other subject areas. Study programmes with work-based learning components would be supported by mentoring and would include assessments and accreditation.
Existing structures serve to facilitate the regular updating of teaching programmes, in response to feedback from students, expert advice, programme reviews and in step with rapid changes in the content and approaches of different disciplines. Such combined administrative and academic structures need to be strengthened and regularly revised to quickly respond to the changing needs of the University’s many entities.
The changing roles of academics, from purveyors of knowledge to mentors, advisors and facilitators are acknowledged and welcome. Motivation, commitment to teaching and innovation should be recognised and rewarded. Indeed, we will aim for excellence in teaching as an integral part of those processes leading to academic advancement, in step with research output and leadership or participation in outreach projects.
Learning and teaching are fundamentally associated with continuous, formative and summative assessments. All appraisal of student effort and work needs to be valid, robust and transparent. The accent on formal examinations is gradually shifting to other forms of assessment that are probably more specific, and which determine accurate levels of knowledge and competencies. To this end, the roles of assignments, authentic assessments, presentations and portfolios are increasingly gaining prominence and welcome acceptance among both students and academics.
Both the purpose and scope of doctoral education, as a fusion between teaching and research, have widened in response to the changing needs of society and the demographic profile of students. The structured fostering of skills, competence in communication, teaching and leadership are now part of doctoral education and the remit of the recently launched Doctoral School, all effectively complementing the traditional doctoral-level research-related skills.
We will focus on expanding the short courses, part-time courses, online courses and practical training programmes for professions across a broad spectrum of fields. Flexible study-units can be designed to suit professionals in mid or early career for the updating of their knowledge, skills and qualifications. The training would provide opportunities for individuals to develop their careers and for employers to enhance their workforce. The University has the knowledge base to create bespoke courses for professional organisations and government officials. These courses can be designed together with stakeholders and would provide a dynamic and supportive environment that promotes valuable professional networks.
The training and continuing professional development of academic staff is an essential ongoing process at all levels in their academic trajectory. All academics, from the most junior, to the most senior professors and thesis supervisors, benefit from appropriate mandated training and support. To this end, we will strengthen and extend the already existing structures, such as the Office for Professional Academic Development, that provide this type of mentoring. We will develop systems to acknowledge teaching excellence through mechanisms of reward and recognition.