A university for the 21st century

We acknowledge the successes of the past to strengthen higher education, but we cannot keep clinging to the past or trying to stand still

We need to look beyond merely technical competencies and knowledge
We need to look beyond merely technical competencies and knowledge

Although we are very limited in our natural resources, we make the most of our capabilities – we have to use knowledge, skills and resilience to reinvent ourselves as the changes happening in the world around us challenge us to get out of one comfort zone after another. We have a strong economic growth, among the lowest unemployment rate in the EU and we can boast of a 97% employment of all graduates in Malta and Gozo. However, there is no room for complacency. If we stand still we will go backwards. We need to develop further and give a new role to Lifelong education to avoid a knowledge and skills obsolescence.

These were some of the main points I made as a keynote speaker addressing the seventh edition of the University Business Forum Organised by the European Commission that attracted around 400 representatives from higher education institutions, large companies, SMEs, relevant European organisations and associations, as well as national, regional and local authorities from Europe and beyond. It was a unique opportunity to share and discuss experiences, compare examples of good practice, to network and to work together to learn from each other.

Being the only minister responsible for both education and employment in the EU I stressed that is of course crucial for the world of education and the world of business to work together but at the same time said that universities cannot be shaped only within a narrow utilitarian economic framework.

The best education prepares us for the real world, for life and work and so is not mere training technically for a job but should also prepare us to be active citizens and people of character and able to navigate the complex world of the 21st century. Ultimately we will be tested in real life on the basis of how we solve real problems and not on certification and vague and abstract ideas that cannot be out into practice.

This conference was an ideal opportunity to discuss modernisation, relevance and skills, evolution and innovation, the changing face of higher education institutions and specifically the state of university business cooperation and new trends in entrepreneurship.

We need to look beyond merely technical competencies and knowledge. Education throughout life is based on four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. Combined with the essence of Charles Fadel’s four dimensional education, which can be organised under four headings: knowledge, skills, character and meta-learning, we can prepare better for the new jobs that might require higher skills such as creativity, and the ability to adapt very quickly to changing job requirements and to a changing social scene.

Our efforts should have a more GLOCAL approach. We must move from local, regional and national policies to a European reality and also open up to the world, especially towards Africa, a continent of new opportunities.

On the Home front, we have just launched a public consultation document on the new University of Malta Act. We acknowledge the successes of the past to strengthen higher education, but we cannot keep clinging to the past or trying to stand still as this will push the University into obsolescence if it does not engage fully in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century.

The consultation document outlines the general principles that reflect the new legislative framework. The proposed act advocates good governance based on core principles, including autonomy, academic freedom, student participation, institutional accountability and ethical values. The proposed legislation will also improve governance structures at the University of Malta, based on established practices within the European Higher Education Area and the governance structures within universities that lead the international university rankings.

The purpose of the consultation is to seek ideas and encourage feedback on the way forward. We will continue to support the access to free education that is embedded in our social and cultural identity. We would like all persons and organisations within University and beyond to participate in this process and recommendations using the e-mail address: [email protected] will be most welcome. Together we can make a better University of Malta. Our country needs it.

The consultation is available at http://socialdialogue.gov.mt [Public Consultations]

More in Blogs