The Maltese higher education system comprises of several institutions which are public or privately owned and which offer home-grown or third-party qualifications at ISCED 5-8 on the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF). Entry into first-cycle higher education programmes (MQF5 or 6) generally requires a qualification at MQF4 (ISCED4) while entry into second- and third-cycle programmes generally require a first- and/or second-cycle degree respectively. However, some programmes allow maturity clauses for persons over a certain age threshold who demonstrate the aptitude to follow the course with success.
The MQF is a referencing tool that helps to describe and compare the knowledge, skills and competences obtained through qualifications. The MQF applies to all qualifications irrespective of whether they arise from academic or vocational education; formal, informal and non-formal learning, thereby promoting quality, transparency and mobility of qualifications.
By virtue of Chapter 607 of the Laws of Malta – Malta Further and Higher Education Authority Act, the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority (MFHEA) regulates further and higher education establishments, against the MQF. The main functions of the MFHEA are:
• providing accreditation to further and higher educational institutions;
• providing accreditation to programmes or courses of studies at further and higher education levels;
• quality assurance of both educational institutions and programmes or courses;
• recognition of obtained national or international qualifications as well as prospective qualifications;
• validation of informal and non-formal learning;
• research and policy recommendation on issues related to further and higher education, including in relation to the Bologna Process and the Copenhagen Process.
Furthermore, three of the State higher education establishments, namely the University of Malta; the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology; and the Institute for Tourism Studies, were granted self-accrediting status, within certain limits, which gives them sole responsibility for programme quality assurance. Chapter 605 of the Laws of Malta - The Education Act - establishes the legal framework for the governance and structure of the University of Malta as well as MCAST.
Four institutions are publicly-funded educational institutions providing higher education courses and fall under the ETER criteria: the University of Malta, the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST), the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) and Institute for Education (IFE). These higher education institutions organise the academic year into two semesters (approximately organised as follows: October-January and February-June) and may be extended by a summer semester.