The Government of Malta funds undergraduate courses offered by the University of Malta (UOM), the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) making these free of charge for Maltese and EU citizens. The Government of Malta also funds full-time postgraduate courses that lead to a professional warrant, such as the Master’s in Teaching and Learning, at the University of Malta. No registration fees are charged for these courses.
The Government of Malta maintains higher education accessible to all those interested in furthering their studies irrespective of age or socio-economic background. This is coherent with Malta’s on-going commitment to increase the percentage of people with a tertiary education qualification to keep strengthening the country’s human capital and increase participation in lifelong learning as noted in the Framework for the Education Strategy for Malta 2014-2024. The Higher Education Strategy for Malta (2015) also identifies increasing participation and attainment in higher education as a primary target. Indeed, huge advancements have been made in this respect especially when one considers that the 10% share of the population having a tertiary level of education in 2005 increased to 28% in 2020 (Gauci,2021).
Current educational priorities include the on-going investment in human capital to sustain economic development. In line with the Malta Budget for 2022, which sets the economic vision of the government, sustaining higher education students to reach their full potential is also identified as a priority, hence the 10% increase in their maintenance grants in 2022.
Financial autonomy and control
The UoM, MCAST, ITS and the IfE receive annual funding from the Government. These funds are managed and controlled by the respective institution’s top management. Accountability mechanisms are in place. Indeed, accountability for public funding comes at different levels. On a monthly basis, income and expenditure accounts are submitted through the Financial Data Reporting System (FDRS) system set up by the Ministry of Finance. Every quarter, educational institutions also submit balance sheets and cash flow projections. Furthermore, at the end of the financial year, publicly funded institutions produce financial statements in compliance with International Financial Reporting Standards which are audited by an external auditing firm and tabled to be approved by specifically set up internal boards. Additionally, regular audits are conducted by the National Audit Office.
Fees within Public Higher Education
Maltese and EU students attending full time undergraduate courses at MCAST, ITS and the UOM do not pay tuition fees. Some 2nd cycle full-time students who are following a master’s degree that leads to a warrant, such as the Master’s in Teaching and Learning course for prospective teachers, do not pay any fees either. On the other hand, part-time students normally pay fees, albeit at rates subsidised by the Government. Third Country Nationals normally pay higher fees than EU Nationals. Fees at the University of Malta comply with Subsidiary Legislation 327.177 - University Fees Regulations. The fees for part-time courses and the fees paid by Third Country National vary depending on the institution and on the course. Payment is made to the respective institution where one is following their course.
Financial support for learners' families
Unless higher education studies are already supported by a scholarship scheme, students may apply for 70% of their expenses on course fees through the Get Qualified Scheme as outlined in Subsidiary Legislation 123.107 - Deductions and Tax Credits (Relevant Qualifications For Industry) Rules. The Incentive Guidelines - Get Qualified Scheme 2017 – 2023, specify that this particular fiscal benefit is available to the fee payer (be it the student or their parent/s). The fee payer receives up to 70% of the course fees after the course is successfully completed.
Since first-cycle higher education courses are free of charge, there is no public financial support offered to families whose children attend a higher educational institution, either as cash benefits or other social benefits.
Financial support for learners
Apart from receiving course fees free of charge, students attending undergraduate courses and some postgraduate courses are entitled to a maintenance grant, locally referred to as students’ stipend, which is given in form of a lump sum at the start of each academic year along with 10 four-weekly instalments. The amount of funds students receive depends on their chosen course. Eligibility for the Students’ Maintenance Grants is considered in accordance with Subsidiary Legislation 605.06 - Students Maintenance Grants’ Regulations.
The grants are not merit based, everyone entitled has access to them irrespective of academic performance. In addition to the universal grants, economically disadvantaged students get a supplementary allowance aimed to support them even further.
Students who opt to follow specific Prescribed Degree Courses receive a more generous grant, while those who opt for specific National High Priority courses receive more than twice the amount of the standard universal maintenance grant. Students working on a part-time basis also benefit from the student maintenance grant. The stipend system is deemed to be enough to sustain students in their studies. Considering the above support, no student loans system is deemed to be needed and therefore there is none in place.
In Malta there are several private higher education providers. Institutions need to be formally recognised as Higher Education Institutions by the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority (MFHEA) through a rigorous process. Courses that are not accredited by foreign authorities, can be accredited by the MFHEA through an accreditation process in line with the Malta Qualifications Framework and the directions within the Malta Referencing Report (2016). Accredited qualifications are recognised as valid at local and European Level, in alignment with the Bologna Process.
Every private higher-education institution sets its own prices and raises funds from registration and tuition fees. Students of courses deemed economically relevant may apply for a 70% refund from the Get Qualified Scheme. Therefore, considerable income of private higher-education institutions indirectly comes from government support to students. Students studying at private institutions are not eligible to receive the student maintenance grant but are eligible to sit for competitive scholarship schemes funded by the Government of Malta. There are no special accountability mechanisms over and above what applies for any private firm since these institutions do not receive financial assistance from the state.