PN slams 'unacceptable, irresponsible and unjust' university budget cuts

Opposition questions whether further cuts are planned to the budgets for social welfare, infrastructure and Gozo • Malta Chamber of Scientists says cuts will have a negative impact on the quality of education

PN MPs Jerome Caruana Cilia (left) and Justin Schembri (right)
PN MPs Jerome Caruana Cilia (left) and Justin Schembri (right)

The Nationalist Party slammed the government over the University of Malta's budget slash, calling it unacceptable, irresponsible, and unjust.

During a press conference on Thursday, PN education spokesperson Justin Schembri said it was ironic that the 2022 budget theme was ‘The Malta that we want for our children’, when the same government decided to reduce the university research funds.

On Tuesday University of Malta rector Alfred Vella informed faculty deans that the budget for this year was being reduced by €1.1 million as part of government’s spending review.

“This is unacceptable, irresponsible, inconceivable, unjust and disgusting. A university can’t excel without research. It is evident that for this government research is not important,” Schembri said.

He recalled how the same Labour government had promised to increase the funds for research and innovation to 2% of the Gross Domestic Product. He also said that government was not following through on proposal 250 of the PL 2022 election manifesto which said funds would be proposed for research in projects valuable for the socio-economic and environmental development of the country.

Schembri questioned whether the government was planning to also slash funds from other educational institutions like MCAST and ITS.

PN MP Jerome Caruana Cilia, who also addressed the press conference, said it remains unclear whether the government consulted with the social partners on the matter.

He questioned whether the government was planning further cuts to the budgets for social welfare, infrastructure and Gozo.

Caruana Cilia said that on the other hand, the same government was spending taxpayer money recklessly on public appointments.

Malta Chamber of Scientists strongly opposes cuts

In a statement, the Malta Chamber of Scientists expressed its concern and disappointment over the budget cut, which it said, will certainly impact its research output and quality of education.

It said that this strategy would negatively affect the country as a whole since the University of Malta is a key player in Malta’s research and development landscape.

“The Chamber is strongly opposed to cuts in research funding, as research is not a luxury, rather an important indicator of a developed nation’s progress, identity, society and culture,” the chamber said.

It said that this news comes at a sensitive time, with research and development playing a key part in boosting the economy and the country’s competitiveness following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Chamber hopes that further cuts will not adversely impact other educational institutions as well as public scientific entities such as laboratories, which, like the University of Malta, already operate on restricted budgets.”