Strategy VI: International Outlook
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'International Outlook' 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.
In 2018, 3% of administrative staff, 6% of academic staff and 15% of the student population at the University of Malta were non-Maltese nationals. 118 international externally funded projects were running during the same period and almost all resident academics have secured one or more of their degrees outside Malta. These indicative statistics are evidence of a strong and deepening internationalisation and a campus community that remains preponderantly local but increasingly global in terms of its research efforts, its networks, its reach, and the citizenship and background of its staff and students. Furthermore, given the increasingly hybrid nature of identity, these staff and students include Maltese nationals returning to Malta from living overseas, as well as non-Maltese nationals now living in Malta, who may have acquired Maltese citizenship.
Strategy VI commitments 2020-2025
Strategy VI commitments for the current academic year 2020-2021
- Consolidate strategic commitments of previous academic years
- Encourage Buddy Programmes
- Target 'source countries' with bespoke marketing drives
- Support networking of academic staff beyond Malta
- Encourage and promote a multilingual university
- Strengthen links with private English language schools as pre-University education providers (and as 'feeders' to UM)
Strategy VI International Outlook
- Mainstream diverse experiences of international students and enhance inter-cultural encounters across campus
- Encourage and promote a multilingual University
- Plan for Graduate Hub residences
- Encourage Buddy Programmes
- Explore host family options or partnerships with religious orders to offer affordable accommodation to incoming international students
- Invest in sports facilities, performance and activity spaces
- Strengthen links with private English language schools as pre-University education providers
- Improve visibility of how international students can work in Malta, during and after their period of study
- Target ‘source countries’ with bespoke marketing drives
- Provide faculties, institutes, centres and schools with the skills required to market specific programmes of study effectively via social media
- Identify why international students choose Malta and the University
- Engage students and alumni as ambassadors
- Support networking of academic staff beyond Malta
- Train staff in multicultural competence and cultural sensitivity
- Foster a Continuing Professional Development culture among staff
- Set up Google Scholar Profiles for all academics to announce and showcase their expertise
- Set up administrative and academic ‘contact persons’ in each faculty, institute, centre and school to address internationalisation issues
- Give the University better visibility via rankings, Malta’s ambassadors and honorary consuls
- Build, nurture and cultivate the alumni network
- Set up and nurture alumni chapters overseas
- Improve internal processes to assist in smoothening the experience of visiting Malta for international students and researchers
- Offer grants, scholarships and teaching opportunities for international students
- Identify more diverse sources of research funding
- Encourage broader, stronger and deeper involvement of academics in all international aspects of their work
- Encourage new research areas and clusters, serving as rationales for new and different international alliances
- Inspire more students to take up Erasmus mobility on academic exchange programmes and traineeships
- Reach out to and support socio-economic development and human capital formation in developing countries
Malta today is a testbed of growing cosmopolitanism. Almost 18% of Maltese residents in 2019 are not Maltese born and this is a substantial leap from the 8% reported in 2013. This proportion makes Malta the 28th country in the world and the third highest in the EU, with the largest ratio of resident immigrant community to native-born ratio, surpassed only by Luxembourg and Cyprus. We benefit from a good climate, safe public spaces, a solid welfare state, a world-class health care system, an extensive public transport network and progressive legislation which are all attractive inducements towards the promotion of education to foreigners.
Malta is unique in being a small, sovereign European archipelago. Unlike many small states, its national University is neither young nor small. With the exception of the University of Gibraltar, the University of Malta is the only public University in the Mediterranean where 99% of the programmes of study are taught, tutored and examined in the English language. This is a tremendous advantage.
Moreover, as the only fully-fledged national University in the country, external also means international. Quality assurance practices started with the engagement of external examiners, all of whom continue to be sourced internationally, mainly from the United Kingdom and Ireland. We will focus on improving existing practices by aiming to:
- cultivate an international mind set and enrich classroom dynamics by mainstreaming the diverse experiences of international students in each cohort;
- enhance intercultural understanding within each learning space and boost social integration by organising activities such as cultural days, ethnic food sampling events, poetry appreciation sessions, dance and song events, storytelling, treasure hunts and study visits abroad;
- nurture a collaborative spirit between local and international students by encouraging mixed group work assignments;
- encourage a multilingual student body by promoting an enrichment of language skills in different languages other than the individual’s native language;
- create a resident student body via the Campus Hub residential unit which will attract international students and Gozitans;
- close the gap between the number of accepted and enrolled international students by improving the application process of prospective international students, seeking collaboration with visa authorities and issuing more provisional and conditional acceptance letters as early as is feasible.
Based on the proposed new initiatives, we will seek to:
- encourage, better recognise and promote the personal and professional networking of academic staff beyond Maltese shores;
- support buddy programmes and accommodation schemes and other aspects of a ‘support package’ for incoming international students;
- build a programme of ‘cultural encounters’ during the academic year for all students to socialise;
- monitor the threat of excessive rental costs, as this may erode the University’s competitiveness in attracting international students, and thus, explore host family options or partnerships with religious communities that may be able to offer affordable accommodation to students;
- invest in sports facilities and other performance and activity spaces on campus to boost the University’s attraction to all students;
- establish links between the University and the private English language schools in Malta;
- implement more assiduously a mobility semester in all programmes of study at the University to ensure that such semesters are exempted from compulsory study-units or any other work which makes it difficult or impossible for students to leave and go abroad;
- offer wider support to both incoming and outgoing mobility students;
- enrich classroom pedagogies to encourage the enhancement of oracy, dialogue, respectful debate and other forms of communication, and foster critical learning and thinking;
- promote interaction and dialogue in a multinational and multicultural community on campus;
- develop graduates holistically, professing humility, confidence and competence in various contexts;
- discern how changes in future demographics of the student population might impact the current student profile. This is suggested by the changing demographics in the schools which are experiencing an increase in children of non-Maltese citizens;
- train staff in multicultural competencies.
Global Rankings and Reputation Management
The University of Malta is increasingly becoming an institution of choice and not of inevitability. Local students who choose to study in Malta have a variety of institutions of higher education to choose from, ranging from MCAST and ITS to private higher education providers and branches of international universities.
The University should be more proactive with regard to sourcing students from abroad to follow pre-programme, foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate courses. We need to develop our visibility and reputation internationally. The University has the opportunity to exploit the positive effects of word-of-mouth of international alumni. Hence, there is a need to communicate the University’s expertise and programmes, to nurture and cultivate its brand, and to develop a positive image in the increasingly crowded and competitive field of higher education.
The University of Malta ranks in the top 4% of 28,800 tertiary education institutions worldwide. The University ranks 951st in 2019, having advanced from its ranking of 1243rd in 2016 (Webometrics). We are convinced that together, we can achieve better results in the future.
To consolidate and improve existing practices, we will aim to:
- make the University more visible via rankings, and through the work of national ambassadors and honorary consuls;
- build, nurture and engage regularly with the University’s alumni network;
- promote the University of Malta as a long-standing University with a campus in a world heritage site and the world’s oldest University in the 53 Commonwealth countries outside the UK;
- instil a culture of continuing professional development amongst staff, which involves visits to universities abroad;
- increase the number of doctoral researchers and the number of resident academics with a doctoral degree supervising doctoral researchers;
- increase the number of researcher profiles on all major platforms by more scholars, doctoral and post-doctoral researchers as a means to promote their publications, as well as raise the University’s profile;
- encourage scholars of repute to develop their own Wikipedia page;
- critically understand and identify why international students choose Malta;
- promote specific programmes that are attractive to international students, such as providing details of job opportunities for international students while and after their period of studies;
- target ‘source countries’ with specific marketing campaigns, which could be achieved by equipping faculties, institutes, centres and schools with skills related to specific programme marketing via social media.
In line with the proposed new initiatives, we will strive to:
- introduce administrative and academic contact persons in each faculty, institute, centre and school to address internationalisation issues;
- utilise existing international students as agents or ambassadors for the University to promote its programmes in the respective countries;
- follow up on and monitor the many memorandums of understanding and agreements signed by the University with other international institutions;
- offer more joint doctoral programmes with reputable international universities, which may involve online and blended learning;
- promote presentations by doctoral candidates and post-doctoral researchers to the wider campus community and civil society;
- encourage international students from older age cohorts to study at the University; this includes developing services that cater better for their specific needs.
The University aims to expand its postgraduate teaching and research by attracting smart and talented postgraduate students. This may depend on the University’s ability to support such students during their research time in Malta. Offers of scholarships and internships financed by industry or government are welcome, with the University potentially offering scholarships in strategic areas of interest. In order to improve existing practices, we will aim to:
- provide grants or supplements to research-based international doctoral researchers;
- offer grants or scholarships to international students undertaking full-time postgraduate studies mainly by research;
- reach out to and support socio-economic development and human capital formation in those countries.
By committing to the new initiatives, we will attempt to:
- identify doctoral and postdoctoral funding, possibly from government funds;
- offer training on how to supervise doctoral researchers;
- assist the Doctoral School to embark on more initiatives in support of the wellbeing of all its students;
- encourage scholarships and teacher and research assistantships to support international students;
- consider the possibility of investing in a Graduate House for the accommodation of graduate students and their families.
Malta’s small size obliges us, as the University community, to reach out. Our academic, administrative, industrial and technical staff can and should operate with local identities but thrive on opportunities to interact with like-minded scholars or administrators from elsewhere.
The Erasmus programme, and its various offshoots has been a showpiece of European integration and deserves particular mention here. The University benefits from the Erasmus programme, which provides financial support for students who go on learning programme exchanges during the academic semesters, and who wish to undergo periods of employment abroad as interns during the summer recess. There is scope for increasing the uptake of internships through a campaign with students and the wider academic community. Enhancing the infrastructure required to enable students to connect with internship employers abroad will also improve opportunities for our students.
Following up on existing practices and aiming for improvement, we will:
- encourage stronger involvement of academics in all international aspects of their work (conferences, projects, workshops, peer reviews, editorial boards, guest lectures, and examination or supervision of students from elsewhere) since such experiences would cascade positively onto the quality of the learning space and thus enhance students’ skills;
- promote the formation of new research areas, thus developing rationales for new and different international collaborations;
- urge students to embark on a semester abroad, and therefore, faculties, institutes, centres and schools should embrace more flexibility to facilitate Erasmus mobility exchange by not obliging students to follow a curriculum overseas which is identical to the local one;
- promote and increase take-up of Erasmus traineeships to provide students with international work experience;
- consider offering shorter periods of time abroad to students who may be, for various reasons, reluctant to embark on any mobility experience;
- improve the guidance offered to academics on how to participate in international projects.
In consideration of the new initiatives, the University proposes to:
- provide specific cultural sensitivity and intercultural competence training to staff through OPAD and the Office for Human Resources Management and Development;
- encourage academics to spend a period of time abroad during their sabbatical;
- mainstream diversity in the University’s activities;
- urge academics to internationalise further through institutional research funds;
- stimulate financial investment to support short-term, more intensive, experiences abroad for industrial, technical and administrative staff and also for students who are in paid employment or active in the local voluntary sector.
The Strategic Development Process for the University of Malta is organised by the team dedicated to Strategic Planning and Enterprise. We constantly seek feedback to improve and evolve our strategic planning process, whilst identifying opportunities to assist students and staff in meeting University's objectives.