University students find it ‘questionable’ why return to campus cannot be guaranteed

Three student organisations seek redress from the Prime Minister since the University of Malta cannot guarantee a return to in-person lectures for all after COVID disruption

Not all university students will be returning to campus for physical lectures, a situation that has student groups concerned and frustrated
Not all university students will be returning to campus for physical lectures, a situation that has student groups concerned and frustrated

Student organisations are up in arms since not all University of Malta students will be able to return to campus for in-person lectures in the first semester.

The problem stems from the fact that not enough lecture rooms will be available after the UOM leased the Gateway Building to the health authorities at least until January, for use as an emergency hub if COVID-19 cases spike.

The building has five large lecture theatres and smaller rooms that cannot be used, making it difficult to find space to host larger student groups while respecting the 1m distance. University students shifted to online learning last year because of the pandemic.

In a letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela that was also copied to Chris Fearne and Justyne Caruana, Għaqda Studenti tal-Liġi, ELSA Malta and Junior Chamber of Advocates, lamented the “double-standards” being adopted.

“Given that both major political parties have scheduled Independence Day celebrations including ‘rallies’, as well as other standing events with 100 people may take place without minimum distances being imposed or any preservation of social bubbles, it seems questionable as to why university students cannot be guaranteed a return to campus,” the organisations lamented.

They added that clubs and other entertainment establishments were given “a carte-blanche in setting out policies which economically accommodate them best”, while disregarding many of the protocols set out by the health authorities. 

“It seems highly disproportionate and inconsiderate to, once again, ignore university students considering that the aforementioned non-compliance [by clubs] simply goes unnoticed,” they insisted.

The three organisations said it is unjust that students are not allowed to return to campus to continue their studies in an environment which is “pro-active and collaborative, rather than simply attending lectures virtually”.

They noted that the age group that the majority of university students fall in has one of the highest vaccination rates.

Calling for compassion, the groups called for in-person learning to resume for all students and if this is logistically impossible adopt a hybrid system that will see student groups alternating between online and physical learning.

“It is understood that this situation was unprecedented for both students and administrative staff alike, and we are willing to initiate negotiations so as to safeguard physical, mental as well as social wellbeing of student,” the groups said.