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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The price of education

As I begin to (slowly) settle into my new job as lecturer in performance and creative technologies at the University of Hull's Scarborough Campus, I realize that I am spending quite of bit of time thinking about the differences between the way things are done here and the other systems of higher education I'm used to in the USA and Malta.

Most prominent in my thoughts these past few days has been the politically-loaded issue of the graduation fee at the University of Malta, which hit the news in Malta these past few days.

I think that this is a political issue in the strategic sense rather than in the social sense. Looking at the actions of the two protagonists in the shootout against the University of Malta, the Education Minister and the student organization PULSE, clearly indicates that while they're wearing the social welfare of the financially challenged on their sleeve, they are also involved in very partisan matters too.

PULSE will of course find every way it can to show the Nationalist government in a bad light, while the Education Minister must do all he can to make his party regain the electoral popularity it once enjoyed

I am a strong proponent of free education for all. However, when an educational institution is in financial straits I see no problem with it imposing a relatively small fee for things like admission and graduation, particularly one that does not charge a tuition fee.

At the same time I also believe that rather than impose a ridiculous 50% fine or additional charges on late payments, the University of Malta would have shown greater compassion if it offered a waiver or some sort of financial aid arrangement for anyone in a position to demonstrate that paying a one time fee of Lm10 would create some sort of hardship. Any student who drives a car, smokes, uses a mobile phone, and/or goes to the cinema more than once a month, would naturally not qualify for either the waiver or any financial aid.

Without any partisan prejudice or personal attack on any of the UoM's employees I ask, am I the only one who believes that (a) the University of Malta is mismanaged, and (b) Maltese political animals only really speak for the good of their partisan agenda even when it apparently benefits a large number of people?

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