In Malta there are two educational institutions which provide vocational education at upper secondary education. These are the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS). While the latter institution specialises in courses leading to qualifications for the tourism industry, MCAST provides a wide range of vocational courses ranging from Level 1 to Level 7 of the Malta Qualifications Framework.
The general objectives of the vocational strands are mostly work-oriented with course structure and content reflecting the development of skills specific to particular jobs. A wider approach to knowledge, competences and skills is however provided in view of the possibility of job mobility throughout one’s life span. Entrepreneurship also plays an important role throughout these courses. MCAST is composed of six Institutes each specialising in a particular vocational area.
MCAST and ITS offer vocational courses which prepare students for both further education and the job market. MCAST entry requirements vary depending on the type of course being followed and its level. Students apply for a place at MCAST after they have completed their compulsory secondary education and obtained the Secondary School Certificate and Profile awarded at the end of compulsory education.
Passes in the Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) examinations are required to enrol for certain courses of study, however the number of subjects and grades necessary to be accepted as a student depend on the type of course to be followed: the higher the qualification applied for the higher the entry requirements. Students who wish to progress to higher level courses within the same vocational area can do so within the same stream. In fact, applicants in possession of the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC)/EDEXCEL Higher National Diploma (HND) are eligible to follow a vocational degree.
MCAST courses are open to foreign students when these have the necessary entry requirements. In the case where the equivalent of a Higher National Diploma has been followed in a foreign institution, this has to be evaluated and recognized by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) and a formal request submitted to the MCAST registrar’s office. EU citizens who have residency permits attend courses without paying any tuition fees while non-EU nationals pay annual fees depending on the type and duration of the course.
Applicants for the Institute of Tourism Studies are required to satisfy entry requirements for their chosen programme. Most courses require SEC passes; however, entry requirements vary according to the programme of study applied for. Courses offered at the Institute range from Foundation Level Certificate (1 year), Certificate Level Programme (1 year), Diploma programme (2 years) and Higher National Diploma (2 years).
To be able to follow a Foundation Level course, students need to be 16 years old by the end of the current year, whilst for higher level courses applicants have to be 17 years of age. Mature students (aged over 23) who do not possess the required entry qualifications are usually accepted to follow studies at ITS. All prospective applicants are assessed at recruitment stage on the basis of academic qualifications (Accreditation for Prior Learning – APL) and the interview outcome.
Some Higher National Diploma courses (MQF Level 5) require applicants to be in possession of the Matriculation Certificate and secondary education certificate passes at Grade 5 or better in Maltese, English Language and Mathematics. Preferential subjects vary from Accounting, Business Studies, Computer Studies, Economics, Geography, History, Home Economics, Social Studies and any foreign language. An evaluation is also held prior to being accepted for such a course before prospective candidates being are enrolled.
This assessment is based on the prospective students’ Accreditation for Prior Learning (APL), their Accreditation for Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) and their academic qualifications. Students who obtain the Higher National Diploma in Hospitality Management and Tourism Studies can then progress to tertiary education as they are eligible to admission to the third-year of the B.A. (Hons.) course in Tourism Studies at the University of Malta.
Vocational courses are open for students who are over 16 years of age. At MCAST students may be required to join a foundation course so as to enable them to follow the course they opted for. Class size varies according to the nature of the subject. A similar situation can be found at ITS. In line with the concept of lifelong learning and the need for workers upskilling there is no age limit on when learners can apply to begin following a course of studies.
Organisation of school time
The academic year of upper secondary vocational institutions runs from the beginning of September till the first week in July. The academic year is sub-divided into three terms with the first term covering September to December, the second term running from January to April and the third term covering April to July. There is a two-week Christmas recess, a week’s recess in Easter time and a summer recess covering July and August.
The vocational institutions have different and longer times than those found during compulsory education. The MCAST timetable runs between 08:00hrs and 16:30hrs for day courses with each lecture being one-hour long. Evening courses are normally held between 18:00hrs and 20:00hrs. These also run for an hour per session. Lectures at ITS run from 08:00hrs to 20:30hrs during each study phase while each lecture usually lasts for 90 minutes.