Chemistry professor Alfred Vella was elected rector of the University yesterday evening and will take over from Prof Juanito Camilleri on July 1.
Prof. Vella, 65, currently pro-rector, was elected by the members of the University Council in a secret vote during a meeting held behind closed doors. The vote was 27-4 in favour of Prof. Vella.
The vote was also contested by Godfrey Baldachino, a Professor of Sociology.
The election was held after the two candidates gave a presentation and replied to questions by the members of the senate.
Prof. Vella said in comments after the election that he was determined to build on the achievements of the last ten years under the rectorship of Prof Camilleri and take new initiatives to ensure that University was in sync with the country's needs.
We must consolidate learning but at the same time place more emphasis on research, within the existing framework of a university which is not privately funded but from the State
"We must consolidate learning but at the same time place more emphasis on research, within the existing framework of a university which is not privately funded but from the State," he said.
In this respect he said that the university need to seek additional streams of revenue to boost its financial resources.
Asked about the prospect of facing competition from a private university, Prof.Vella said that he was not fazed by such scenario, saying that the University of Malta "should stand on its two feet" regardless of whether there was a monopoly or not.
Prof. Baldacchino said the voting by the University Council was unequivocal and sends a strong message in favour of stability and continuity in the University’s administration.
"Prof. Vella is best placed to lead our university in such circumstances. I look forward to working with Prof. Vella to operationalise our shared vision of the University of Malta as the pre-eminent national knowledge institution, serving community, industry and society; providing enviable conditions of employment to its employees; encouraging students and staff to aspire to excel and widen their horizons; and reaching out to build a stronger presence and reputation beyond our shores," he said in a statement.
Education Minister Evarist Bartolo and the Malta Union of Teachers also congratulated the new rector.
In an interview with The Sunday Times of February 7, Prof Vella said he will have his own style of management.
“What’s important is to have eyes open to challenges and to the opportunities to grab them,” he said when asked about his future view of the university.
He said one of the important things on his agenda was balancing teaching with research, as without the latter the university would simply be a glorified secondary school.
“What gives us the pedigree as a university is research. And while there’s no magic wand to achieving the right balance, especially since being the only national university we cannot renege on teaching, we have to be a research-intensive university and with proper guidance students have an important part to play in this,” he said.
Prof. Vella is also keen to encourage academics to expose themselves to the scrutiny of their peers to ensure the best product was presented to students.
He also pointed out that the new University Act, which has been in the offing for years, may have a profound influence on the university’s governance as it worked on recalibrating old practices to address new realities.
Prof Vella was born in Cospicua. He graduated B.Sc. in 1971 and M.Sc. in 1975 from the University of Malta and Ph.D. in organic geochemistry in 1984 from Colorado School of Mines.
He joined the University of Malta in 1987. At present, Professor Vella mainly teaches and researches the area of environmental chemistry and has published papers in international journals in environmental and pollution science and petroleum geochemistry, among others.
Professor Vella served for many years as Head of Department of Chemistry and during 1997 and 2007 he was also Dean of the Faculty of Science. He has served as Pro-Rector for Academic Affairs since July 2006.
Professor Vella has also served as forensic expert in judicial inquiries and as scientific consultant to state and non-state agencies.
He is a member of the board of governors of the Malta Council for Science and Technology and the Environment and Resources Authority and directs the National Authority of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The shadow minister for education, Therese Comodini Cachia, congratulated Prof Vella following his election and also thanked Prof Baldachino for his interest in the post.