The Preliminary Findings of the 2005 Internal Academic Audit have been made available. This audit is a feather in the cap of the Rector, Professor Roger Ellul-Micallef, and all the University staff, for three reasons.
The first is that at the end of 2003 the Rector announced that a University internal academic audit would be carried out in 2005. By 2005 the audit was completed as planned and by last month we had the preliminary findings. Secondly, because the strategic plan stating that "the University will expand its Quality Assurance Programme to ensure excellence and accountability in teaching, research and administration" has been fulfilled.
Thirdly, the Rector, in addition to the role of an academic, also has that of an administrator and has to rely mainly on public esteem and state funds. There is no doubt that the institution received the best possible mark as giving services of the highest quality. Some may say that this is what is expected of it. Yes and no. The achievements were only feasible because most staff academic, technical and administrative go beyond the call of duty and therefore were described as "exceptional" and "admirable" by the audit team.
Ibn Campusino is often critical of several University authorities. But the audit report is not concerned with his views. It gives the views of all stakeholders. We were particularly impressed by the response of ex-students who overwhelmingly feel that they had "a very good deal at the University". But as if this reaction was not enough to satisfy us, the feedback from the employers of the University's graduates is also very positive. How are our University graduates described by the employers? This time the graduates received the titles of 'good thinkers', 'hard-working' and best of all, 'excellent problem-solvers'.
And so is it all roses and no thorns? Of course not. These are the points on which the University has to do some work and take action:
1. Need for better funding and more resources. The government has it now in black and white. Fund the University and the country gets back three times' worth what it gives.
2. Students should be prepared better for independent study at a University. This is a job for Junior College and the sixth forms. Not an easy demand to satisfy with their resources. Yet we know that academic staff at the Junior College are able to do it.
3. Academics need to get more involved in post-graduate work. Our graduates are successful in their post-graduate studies abroad. Many of them go abroad because the government and the university give scholarships and study leave for students to study abroad but the same authorities are very hesitant to support post-graduate local studies.
We also need more research assistants and Fellows. The University's administration must get rid of the bad habit of creating enormous delays, hassle and unnecessary hurdles for students to continue with post graduate studies locally. It must also learn to respect its own post graduates. It will take time to appreciate our own products. Perhaps a few billboards near the University similar to those promoting the agricultural local products are needed both for the academics and the students!
4. Let us reduce the "over-teach over-assess" mania. Let us replace courses and not just add new courses on the old ones. This ought to be a simple exercise. Heads of departments must judiciously fulfil their responsibility by hacking away at the excess fat in the curriculum, teaching and assessment.
5. Let us introduce placements in all courses like the ones we have in the professional courses. This will be the response to the request by employers for more hands on teaching. It may also provide some more room for research and development.
6. Central administrative staff, especially finance officers, very often unjustly receive criticism from both academics as well as from administration and technical staff at the faculty or institute level. Staff at lower levels do not understand the pressure that central administrative staff receive from all sources such as auditors and MPs, especially through the numerous PQs. The University is publicly funded, and therefore auditors and MPs have the duty to scrutinise it. On the other hand they should not overdo it. If and when they do, the damage is felt at the student level, not only centrally.
The internal academic audit for 2005 involved more than 450 full-time and part-time academic and support staff with some 750 present students and graduates as well as a large number of employers of the university graduates.
One last word of thanks goes to Professor Charles Farrugia, Pro Rector and Academic Audit Co-ordinator. The preliminary report was approved by the university's Quality Assurance Committee last November and by the University Senate last month. Congratulations on a job well done!
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