Supporting students to succeed

We believe in education and we will continue to devise as many ways as possible to help our students achieve to the best of their ability

Scholarships and grants are but ways of encouraging further education
Scholarships and grants are but ways of encouraging further education

In our electoral manifesto we pledged to strengthen the stipend system. We had promised to increase stipends pro-rata with the cost of living adjustment to reflect the financial needs of our students. We declared that we will give stipends to those who repeat their particular year in higher secondary education and we pledged to give more students eligibility to the stipends system. This we have done and my government believes so strongly in investment in education, that we will continue to do so.

Stipends, one time grants and supplementary grants have increased by around two million euro during this legislature. The government’s disbursement on stipends in 2014 exceeded €27 million. We have now also included for eligibility, Guze Ellul Mercer 16+ students who are furthering their studies by resitting their SEC exams and also students in the Alternative Learning Programme 2 in Paola and this educational institution will now be in line with other post-secondary schools in Malta and Gozo. The total number of students who receive some sort of stipend is now around 19,000.

We have also addressed students with special needs. We have increased the income thresholds that determine eligibility for supplementary grants and we have introduced automatic approval for those students with mental or physical disabilities, for those students at the Corradino Correctional Facility and for those homeless youths living in shelters and/or support homes run by the church in Malta. These incentives have been introduced for those underprivileged young adults who wish to pursue post-secondary or tertiary education.

With effect from the current academic year, students who are single parents and whose only income is the social benefit, will be given an additional grant at the beginning of the year, which varies according to the level rating of the course that each of them is enrolled in. We are also introducing students’ maintenance grants to those unemployed who go back to post-secondary or tertiary education, this without any deduction from their social benefits.

In 2017, we will be giving a pro-rata stipend to those students who extend their studies by one additional year, thus removing the anomaly between these students and those students who repeat an academic year. Last year 935 students repeating their academic year, who were not previously eligible, received a stipend.

In line with our endeavour to incentivise further education, we have substantially increased both the number of scholarships that the government allocates annually as well as the funds allocated. We also offer a considerable number of scholarships which are partially funded by the European Union.

Several scholarship schemes have existed over the years covering a great number of subject areas. These range from anything between short-term scholarships to a maximum of seven years for research on a PhD or Professional Doctorate level. Some are ongoing, including the Arts Scholarships and Sports scholarship schemes. Others, such as STAR and MASTER it! have been replaced.

Between March 2014 and September of this year, 56 scholarships were awarded to applicants to the Malta Arts Scholarship scheme for a total of one million euros. During the same period the government has forked out €480,000 in scholarships to 53 individuals in the Sports Scholarship scheme.

Between March 2013 and September 2014, 89 scholarships were awarded under the Government Scholarships Scheme – Post Graduate at a total cost of €1,800,000.

MASTER it! – a popular scholarship scheme partly financed through EU funds, awarded 651 scholarships between March 2013 and January 2015. The charge towards this scheme amounted to around €5,000,000.

A scheme to offer scholarships in ICT and Financial services, accepted applications for 30 scholarships for a total value of €430,000.

In May 2015, the ENDEAVOUR Scholarships scheme was launched. This is divided into two categories of which Group A is reserved for scholarships that can benefit from EU funds and Group B which is financed entirely by the local government. The Malta Government Scholarships Scheme (MGSS) has been amalgamated into Group B of this new scheme.

Through the ENDEAVOUR programme, we have so far distributed 427 scholarships to a total value of  €2,750,000 in Group A, whilst in Group B, between 2015 and 2016 we awarded 123 scholarships for a total value of €1,800,000.

Also launched in 2015, the REACH HIGH Scholars Programme – Post-Doctoral Grants, supports research programmes in priority subject areas. So far scholarships have been awarded to 16 researchers. The funds allocated through the ESF fund for this scheme total three million euro.

Scholarships and grants are but ways of encouraging further education. Grants could be deemed to be incentives whilst scholarships are normally merit based. We believe in education and we will continue to devise as many ways as possible to help our students achieve to the best of their ability.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister of Education and Employment

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