University Rector Alfred Vella will seek re-election for another five-year term amid concerns about the lack of public debate on this important position and the institution’s vision for the future.

Prof. Vella told Times of Malta he had received a number of proposals for his nomination from University Council members, which he has accepted.

Nominations of candidates by council members have to be submitted by noon on Thursday, according to a letter to staff from the council president that outlines the rules for the election, scheduled for March 25.

But with three weeks to go, the Dean for the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, Andrew Azzopardi, said he and other academics are “uncomfortable” with the lack of debate and engagement in the run-up to the election of “the leader of the country’s second largest employer”.

This was in stark contrast with the scenario five years ago, which was characterised by a whole debate on the rectorship, with “important and exciting” meetings, Azzopardi recalled.

He said he was now in the dark about the University’s leadership and was worried about the “silence” around the election – even if the current rector were to be reconfirmed.

“I am unhappy that such an important role should come without a national debate, which should focus on the University’s vision,” Azzopardi said. Lamenting the “lull” at the state-funded institution, he felt it needed direction for the year ahead, with all the problems the country was facing.

We need to know where this institution is going

“The University is a very important player in the way our social landscape develops and its response to society’s needs through its courses and  research, for example, is vital,” Azzopardi said, insisting that its leadership had to help the country in the challenges ahead.

“While I have no problems with who the actual candidates are and who will be rector, what bothers me is that it seems the University is not going to participate in who will be leading it,” Azzopardi said, insisting he had no interest in the post whatsoever.

“From academics to administrators, researchers, students, technicians – no one has been engaged. We need to know where this institution is going, who the candidates are and their vision.

“I cannot believe that we will have a new rector in a couple of weeks and none of this is happening.”

Azzopardi’s own Faculty of Social Wellbeing has presented a memorandum, ‘Making Our Voice Heard’, that looks into what is required from this rectorship.

It is built on consultation among the faculty’s academic body, administrative teams, students and research support officers among others, and states that each rectorate represents a new phase in the life of the alma mater.

The rector is elected by the University Council, the majority of which is made up of government-appointed members and the others being representatives of the university community.

In the case of two candidates, the one with the higher number of votes would be elected, and in the case of only one, the candidate would need to have 50 per cent plus one votes.

While Azzopardi had no problem with the current rector staying on, he said an  election was always healthy and it was good to hear candidates present their vision to the University’s representatives on the council before taking a vote.

The University Students’ Council said the process had started and that the decision on the rector always lay in the hands of the government-appointed council members, which formed its majority. It was ultimately a government decision.

KSU president Matthew Xuereb said there should be a wider debate and whoever is contesting the elections should come forward and exchange ideas with students, who are also stakeholders.

“Should it be the current rector, we would support that decision. It would be a continuation and contact with him has been ongoing throughout his term.”

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