The government wants Tanya Sammut-Bonnici, the head of the Marketing Department within the Faculty of Economics, to become the University of Malta’s next rector, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.
However, several of the university’s academic staff are opposing her nomination and would prefer other more experienced and well-known candidates.
“Prof. Sammut-Bonnici is definitely topping the government’s wish list and various lecturers close to the powers that be have been mentioning her name for a very long time,” a dean at one of the university’s faculties told this newspaper.
“It is an open secret that the government wants Sammut-Bonnici to replace Juanito Camilleri and the Prime Minister is personally lobbying for her among university council members,” he said.
However, despite the government’s lobbying, there seems to be resistance among the academic staff to Prof. Sammut-Bonnici taking the top post.
According to academic sources, while Prof. Sammut-Bonnici may have the necessary requisites for the post, her relatively young age and lack of experience in administration is working against her.
Instead, university sources said there seemed to be more consensus on the possibility of chemistry professor Alfred Vella or sociology professor Godfrey Baldacchino to take on at the helm.
“There is definitely a consensus among the academic staff that one of them should become the next rector,” a senate member said.
“In the case of Alfred Vella, he has been a pro-rector for a long time and is a guarantee of continuity. On the other hand, although Prof. Baldacchino may be a bit too open-minded, he is definitely a safe bet,” he said.
Muscat has already decided whom to appoint as a university rector and is pretending to consult
Prof. Sammut-Bonnici has been lecturing at the university for a number of years but is relatively unknown both inside and outside the university. She was recently appointed by the government to serve on a number of boards, including the National Commission for Higher Education and the Foundation for Medical Services.
The election of a new rector is expected to take place in mid-March. According to the law, it is the Council of the University, consisting of 30 members, elects the new rector through a secret vote.
However, the government nominates the majority of the members of the council and effectively controls who is elected.
“Although on paper it is the government of the day who decides who will become rector, a secret vote takes place in the council and the government cannot expect all its members to collaborate if it puts forward a nomination which is not acceptable,” a council member warned.
“It is evident from the soundings made so far that the government’s preferred new rector does not enjoy widespread support,” he said.
In an unprecedented move, Prime Minster Joseph Muscat held two consultation sessions with the academic staff on Friday to discuss the requisites necessary for a new rector.
However, many academics described the ‘dialogue’ as another marketing ploy.
In a tweet, Prof. Arnold Cassola accused the Prime Minister of taking the academic staff for a ride. “He has already decided whom to appoint as a university rector and is pretending to consult.”
He called on the government to introduce a system, already in place in democratic countries, where the rector was elected through a popular vote by members of the staff.
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