PLAS units October 2022

The University of Malta’s Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences (PLAS) is an excellent opportunity for personal and professional development. You may apply for any and as many Units as you wish from the broad range of PLAS Units on offer.

PLAS Units consist of weekly evening lectures between 18:00 and 20:00, normally spread over 14 weeks.  Each study unit is of 4 ECTS which involves between 20 to 28 contact hours.

Timetable Semester 1 of the Academic year 2022/3 (Updated 05/08/22)

Applications for Semester 1 are now open. Apply now.


Coordinator: Mr Guido Bonnett

This Unit is extended for those that are new to photography. It highlights the possibilities that exist on these islands that allow those interested in nature photography to participate in this rewarding activity.  It will later focus on different aspects of nature photography.  Topics include Maltese habitats and the opportunity these present to the photographer; Nature photography in different habitats such as tropical rain forests, savannas and grasslands; Basic information on the technical aspects such as camera bodies, lenses and other equipment used in the field; hints and tricks on how to take better nature photographs; ethics in photography.

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Coordinator: Prof. David Mifsud
This Unit provides the basic information required for anyone interested in setting up an apiculture industry and provide knowledge on how to keep healthy bees, production of queens, and recognizing bee diseases and their control.  It will also provide a focus on how the honey bee collects nectar from the different floral sources present in the Maltese Islands and how this is transformed in the three main honey types for Malta: Spring honey, wild thyme honey and Autumn honey.  It will provide basic information on honey extraction and honey handling and all properties associated with quality honey.

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Coordinator: Dr Carl Camilleri

The Unit will delve into the challenges facing modern economies such as wealth creation and inflation. The objective is for students to appreciate the relevance of Economics using a non-technical but insightful and innovative approach. Case studies will help students understand both the concepts and the relevance of economics within the real world. The Unit will cover the following themes: A historical perspective of the significance of Economics; understanding how individuals and societies behave; the power of economic thinking and the questions that Economics asks; globalization, markets and the challenge of wealth creation, innovation and inflation.

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Coordinator: Dr Joseph Lia

This Unit will introduce the student to the literature of the Russian Composers in the vocal, symphonic and dance genres.  The most important and influential works of the main Russian composers, from Glinka to Prokofiev, will be discussed.  Their lives will be taken from a social and political point of view.  This Unit will give the students the necessary knowledge to appreciate and familiarize themselves with the works of these composers and they will be able to appreciate more in depth a symphonic, operatic or ballet performance.  Case studies utilized for this Unit will consist of recordings of immortal productions from well-known conductors, directors and performers – together these will contribute to a more holistic approach for and by the students.

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Coordinator: Prof. Everaldo Attard

This Unit gives an insight of how herbs occur in the environment (wild or cultivated), how these are treated to prepare valuable products and then how these are used as medicines, food supplements and cosmetics.  With an increase in media sources, the distinction between these three categories is becoming more and more complicated.  The Unit will tackle the historical, legal and scientific aspects of herbal use.  The botanical characterization of plants and plant parts, the phytochemicals that are stored and potential effects will be discussed.

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Coordinator: Dr Robert Cordina
(This Unit will be offered ONLINE)
This Unit will be delving into the intrinsic links between cooking and chemistry. Everyday foods – ice-cream, cured products, mayonnaise, jams, bread – will be looked at from a chemical point of view.  Why is ice-cream creamy and why does mayonnaise not split into oil and water? And why do jams don’t go mouldy? What happens at a molecular level when we fry, bake, roast or grill our foods? Is there a reason why eggs and bacon, but also white chocolate and caviar, taste good together? The basic chemistry principles discussed in this Unit will be covered in the first lecture and no specialist chemistry knowledge is expected prior to this Unit.

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Coordinator: Dr James Ciarlo'

This Unit is an introduction to the evolution of life on Earth, and provides insight into the lost worlds brought about by evolution and natural selection. The Unit is a journey through time, starting from the early formation of our planet and its very first inhabitants. Special focus is given to the diversification of life that led to the dinosaurs and their lifestyles. Additionally, the Unit will explore the lesser-known animal groups that preceded and followed the dinosaurs, ending with humanity. No specialist knowledge is required, as the Unit aims to provide a gradual understanding of processes such as fossilization, the movement of continents, and extinction events that will lead to a general familiarity with geology, biology, and climatology.

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Coordinator: Ms Georgina Debattista

This course will be of special value to persons who are interested to gain knowledge of group dynamics as a tool to form effective group experiences being a family, business groups, sports team, in education and community building. It is addressed as well to those who want to develop and enhance the leadership role by acquiring knowledge of behaviors associated with effective leadership.

The goal of this Unit is to acquire theoretical understanding of the dynamics inherent in small groups and to appreciate and grasp the practical aspects of leading and managing a group.

A seminar format will be used taking the form of theoretical input by the lecturer and experiential learning. Thus it also involves the acquisition of skills and attitudes.

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Coordinator: Dr David Vella

Horror literature is named after the feeling it aims to instill through diverse situations: otherworldly visitations, depraved aristocrats, perverse serial killers, the undead, the freak show parade, occult ceremonies, lycanthropy … It delves into experiences that are repressed by society and explores forms of personal distress that we often conceal in our subconscious. The focus of this course will be on the themes and plot patterns of contemporary horror literature and its various subgenres.  To this end, it will explore the nature of horror and the existential, psychological, and philosophical reasons it is present in our lives.

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Coordinator: Rev. Dr Jonathan Farrugia

The Unit will introduce students to a basic history of worship spaces on the Maltese Islands, ranging from the prehistoric to the late medieval period. The importance of sacred space will be underlined, followed by the study of structures that have enhanced the faith experience of the people living on the Maltese and Gozitan mainland in the past seven millennia. The analysis will include edifices built above ground level, such as the constructions of the Temple Period and the late medieval countryside chapels, as well as underground or rock-hewn structures such as burial sites and troglodyte churches.

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Coordinator: Mr Jes Grixti

This Unit study raison d'etre is community exposure to diverse music aesthetics from different eras against a geo-historical and cultural context. It aims to facilitate the transition toward an active and attentive listener. An in-depth exposure of core musical works, supported by an unveiling tapestry of styles as a progression in time. It narrates the sonic journey and its connection with listening perceptions. Therefore, enhancing a holistic music enjoyment experience by focusing on a listening-centred approach underpinned by Western High Art Music-making.

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Coordinator: Dr Derek Lutterbeck

This Unit will provide a basic yet comprehensive introduction into the field of international migration as a major challenge of the 21st century facing practically all countries of the globe. Several key aspects of contemporary international migration will be discussed, including the ‘root causes’ of migration, the challenge of migrant integration, the relationship between migration and development, as well as migrant smuggling and human trafficking. The Unit will also provide an overview of contemporary refugee issues. While the global dimension of international migration will be highlighted, particular emphasis will be given to the challenges of migration and refugee flows in Europe and the Mediterranean region.

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Coordinator: Dr Mario Thomas Vassallo
Co-lecturer: Dr Luke Buhagiar

This Unit serves as a platform to explore and identify the links between the world of politics, the sociological and psychological fabric of contemporary society and the array of ethical principles in public life. Through a transdisciplinary approach, this Unit helps students to understand the implications of political ethics which is defined as the practice of making moral judgments about social/cultural developments and political action. Through the exposition of various empirical themes, this Unit is intended to expose students to the multi-faceted features of the social sciences.

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Coordinator: Dr Louis Naudi

Understanding failure is about lessons learnt, not the failure in itself. Failure needs to be defined, acknowledged and accepted, an opportunity to reflect, learn and improve, bringing about a dose of realism. Startup ventures face a risky uncertainty, a problem to be understood, a reality to be embraced. New ventures test assumptions which may be wrong and haven’t been tested before; a business experiment with potential but prone to failure. The more innovative, the riskier the assumptions it’s testing and more likely to fail. Not every failure leads to success or even a great learning opportunity. Optimism needs to be put in perspective and this approach giving you a more open mind and appreciation on the key factors.

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Coordinator: Dr Nicholas Briffa
Co-lecturers: Ms Claire Casha

This Unit will give an overview of the key components of relationships within the context of a family, taking into account the most significant changes in family life in the second decade of the twenty-first century. It aims to help students reflect about the importance of relationships and family life in the modern world and how they can be active promoters of their own relationships. It will also offer an environment to delve deeper into the psychological, social and cultural, and physical factors that affect human sexuality, and explores these through various theoretical approaches, taking a mostly developmental and evolutionary approach. The aims of the Unit are to introduce the student to the psychological dimensions of human sexuality, to examine the role sexuality plays in human development, the main theoretical models that help us understand better sexual functioning, and to introduce the student to the different historical and cross cultural perspectives.

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Coordinator: Mr Anton Mangion
(To be able to enrol on this Unit, students MUST have attended LAS2003 - The Art of Winemaking)

The Art of Winemaking Part 2 will explain in detail the biology of yeasts and will deal with post fermentation management.  Following fermentation, it is important that the wine be stabilized against undesired changes prior to bottling.  The Unit will discuss the possible causes of wine instability and how it can be prevented and rectified.  The Unit will focus on fining agents and their use, alternative winemaking, namely sparkling wines, sherry and port production.  The Unit will also delve into wine tasting; how should wine be tasted; what do you expect to experience during wine tasting.

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Coordinator: Mr Anton Mangion

Viticulture is the cultivation and harvesting of grapes.  The Unit discusses the legal aspects which govern the production of quality grapes for the production DOK; IGT and Table wines.  The Unit explains the location and orientation of vineyard, soil morphology and trellising systems; will focus in detail on the vegetative and reproductive cycle, shoot system and vine canopy, vine physiology and yearly growth cycle; bud break and period of growth, bloom, berry set, veraison; ripening and berry composition.  Pruning techniques, irrigation, fertilizers and pest management will be discussed in detail.  The Unit will cover topics including legislation, plant morphology, soil, site selection and vineyard setup, pruning, the Vine Growing Cycle, irrigation and fertilizers, pest management.

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Coordinator: Mr Mark Xerri

What do Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton have in common?  Is the white cotton layer coating the surface of Camembert and Brie edible? What is common for Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano? This Unit will go through the science and technology behind the art of cheese making in order to answer these questions.  Topics that will be covered include the production of milk on the farm, the chemistry and microbiology of milk and the subsequent treatment and processing, including pasteurization, renneting, cutting, scalding, pressing, salting and maturation.  It will provide the basic theoretical and practical information required to appreciate how milk is transformed into different kinds of cheeses and other fermented milk products like yogurt and butter.

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Coordinator: Ms Sonya Sammut

Evolutionary biology has the answer to some of our psychological distress. That is why, in this Unit, we turn to evolutionary psychology to learn about human nature and how we can rely on those inbuilt adaptations that nature has designed to understand ourselves, others, and the modern world better. Although this Unit builds on some of the fundamentals discussed in LAS2056: The Biology of Struggle: Evolutionary Insights into Everyday Problem, we will start by introducing evolutionary psychology before moving on to explore topics such as mental health, emotions, morality, leadership, altruism, friendship, etc., always with the aim to find solutions for our well-being.

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PLAS Tech Units


Lecturer: Mr Martin Camilleri

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems and data from digital attacks. This Unit will cover the foundation of computer security and provide students with a solid base to further develop in the area. Typical topics include:
General security concepts
Basic risk management processes
Network infrastructure security
Security monitoring
Securing the network
Basics of cryptography
Security policies and procedures
Security administration

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Lecturer: Mr Robbert Brand

Industry 4.0 holds an exciting future. A future that poses entirely new opportunities and sources of revenue. A disruptive transformation where organizations enter the 4th industrial revolution and leave their competitors behind through digitalization, integration, auto(no)mation, and insight. The industry needs leaders that facilitate this transformation. Participants of this study unit will learn how to do this. Some of the topics covered include:
‣ Industrial IoT
‣ Edge, Cloud & Fog Computing
‣ Big Data

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Coordinator: Mr Robert Abela
Co-lecturer: Mr Axel Curmi


Python is a general-purpose scripting language that is both rich in features and simple enough to learn as a first programming language. Over the past years, Python has grown in popularity, consistently holding a top 3 spot in most reputable ranking exercises. The interest is fueled by the wealth of learning resources, tools, and libraries available mostly for free.

After going through the fundamentals and the tools required, this Unit will explore both the language syntax and common libraries that facilitate the programmer’s tasks. Several libraries will be used for a variety of applications including automating common tasks, using files, connecting to web servers, and testing the code developed.

The approach taken will be a combination of lectures and in-class practical sessions where participants can work at their own pace with tasks matching the different skill level.

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Units to be offered at the Gozo Campus


Lecturer: Mr Stephen Mifsud

We are surrounded by over 1000 different species of wild plants and trees, but how much do you know about them or even know their name? This Unit primarily gives an insight into identifying plant families and several species, including endemic, medicinal, edible and dangerous plants commonly found in the Maltese natural habitats. Taking a closer look at their structures, lifestyles, adaptations, anatomy, and intimate relationships with insects and/or animals, one will appreciate these Maltese plants more, which often go unnoticed. Yet their importance was not neglected in the past, when locals took advantage of their virtues for several uses and applications, some of which are discussed. This Unit also includes guided field visits to provide a better learning experience and appreciation of wild plants in their natural habitats.

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Lecturer: Dr Consiglia Azzopardi

This Unit provides the basic know-how requested for anyone who would like to make Maltese Lace as a hobby or who is interested in setting up a lace cottage industry.  This Unit introduces the basic stitches worked by the traditional pillows and bobbins by following old patterns as well as new ones drawn purposely to suit the fashion of the day. Attention is focused on how to choose the right thread suitable for any particular design, considering most importantly the durability and aesthetic appearance of finished artefacts. The Unit provides knowledge about the construction of lace, hence introducing the students to the skill of sight-reading any pattern. The knowledge acquired in the drawing and practical lessons helps to instill a sense of creativity in modern projects of our time.

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Coordinator: Mr Mario Cassar

This Unit will provide art and antiques lovers, collectors, dealers and individuals who are interested to venture into the business of antiques, an introduction to the history of art and design with special reference to the art and artefacts produced throughout the centuries. Focusing on the Maltese context, the Unit will help students to appreciate better art and antiques from a stylistic, cultural, historical and economic point of view. Furthermore, the Unit will highlight the evolution of collections in Malta while helping students to comprehend better the various contexts of art and antiques through site visits to collections, both national and private, to antique dealers and auction houses who operate in the local sector.

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https://www.um.edu.mt/clas/plasunitsoct2022