The University of Malta has rolled out its first full-time politics degree in a bid to attract younger people to study politics and foster a new generation of politically-qualified leaders who can address the country’s decades-long issues with governance.

The three-year Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Politics and Governance will cover everything, from political leadership, campaigning, ethics, activism, the economy, foreign policy, corporate, financial and public governance, to political thought, behaviour, and how political parties and elections work.

It is primarily aimed to foster the next generation of politicians, policymakers, political advisors, public officials, diplomats, mediators, journalists, influencers, trade unionists, civil society and NGO leaders, lobbyists, campaigners, and negotiators.

But the university’s head of Public Policy Department, Mario Thomas Vassallo, says it will also equip students with transferable skills they can use on any job, even if they do not end up working directly in politics.

“Even if we don’t realise or admit it, everything in a democratic country is political. Everything we do in business, economics, medicine, in the social sector and in every public and private enterprise, must be led with political values, good governance and informed policymaking,” he said.

“So, irrespective of where students decide to take their careers, this course will teach them valuable skills they can use anywhere.”

The university already offers courses in political subjects, like diplomacy, social policy and economics, and it has been offering a slimmer version of this course in the form of a part-time diploma for 25 years; but this is the first time the course is joining the ranks of other full-time, honours degrees at the university.

Vassallo hopes that while the part-time diploma traditionally attracted older, mature students, this full-time course will now begin to attract younger students who might aspire to make politics their career after they leave post-secondary school.

And unlike other similar courses in policy, this course will not require candidates to have a Mathematics A-level, because that is usually a great push-factor for young people interested in politics, Vassallo said.

The course is also intended to address the issues of governance which have plagued the country for decades, Vassallo explained.

There isn’t a qualification for the job that regulates and governs all the others

“If this country has an Achilles heel in politics, it has always been good governance – the culture of clientelism, friends of friends, lack of transparency, conflicts of interest and strong laws coupled with poor enforcement,” he said.

“It is crucial that we create a qualification for politics as well. There are qualifications for every job out there but not a qualification for the job that regulates and governs all the others. We want to change that.”

Vassallo said the course is making way into the Maltese culture at a time of great challenges and opportunities. He said it is not intended to close down the political schools of the two major parties. Rather, it wants to offer a stronger platform where liberals and conservatives, centrists and anarchists, and people on the left and right of the political spectrum can meet and share ideas.

Vassallo made waves earlier this year when he suggested that politics is introduced as a subject at Junior College and all other sixth form institutions.

Speaking to Times of Malta, Vassallo had blamed the decreasing voter turnout and young people’s reluctance to engage in politics and their desire to leave the country on the lack of political education in schools.

Prof. Mario Thomas VassalloProf. Mario Thomas Vassallo

“It is pointless granting 16-year-olds the right to vote if the education system intends to continue shunning politics in the classroom out of fear of labels or controversy,” he said.

The idea created a wave of support, with many believing it is the path towards fomenting critical thinking and resolving political tribalism, but former education ministers Louis Galea and Evarist Bartolo shot it down, saying it would hardly address a much deeper problem. Education Minister Clifton Grima was also not too keen on the idea.

Even if it did not make it to post-secondary schools yet, students may now still opt to study politics full-time after they finish their A-levels.

The Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Governance is being offered by the Department of Public Policy within the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy at the University of Malta and will start in October.

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