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20.04.2020 

GħSL responds to “factual inaccuracies” within the University of Malta Press Release -

GħSL, the Malta Law Students’ Society, has taken notice of the Press Release issued by the University of Malta, in reply to our statement issued last Friday. The organisation has also been inundated with feedback from the students, as well as constructive dialogue with some of our peers, all of which has been welcomed with open arms.

 

The organisation would like to point out that certain statements made by the University’s Press Release are incorrect or misleading, and would therefore like to issue clarifications:

 

1) The University of Malta stated that “in the majority of cases, students on the Faculty of Laws will be assessed via take-home assignments, and not take-home exams.” This is demonstrably false.

 

As GħSL we have asked each of its class representatives to gather a list of all the subjects that will be assessed during the June Examinations, and the way in which said assessment will be carried out. As things stand, the decision by the different Heads of Department within the Faculty Board is as follows:

 

  • LL.B I - Out of the 5 core study units, three will be assessed through “synchronous take-home examinations”, while two will be assessed through “take-home assignments”
     
  • LL.B II – Out of the 6 core study-units, (including a re-sit session for a study-unit taught previously in this year but not anymore) four will be assessed through “synchronous take-home examinations”, while one will be assessed through a “take-home assignment.” The method of assessment for one study-unit remains to be confirmed
     
  • LL.B III – Out of the 6 core study units, four will be assessed through “synchronous take-home examinations”, while the method of assessment for two study units remain to be confirmed
     
  • LL.B IV – Out of the 3 core study-units, one will be assessed through “synchronous take-home examinations”, while a partial assessment method for the remaining 2 core study-units is yet to be confirmed
     
  • M. Adv – Out of the 5 core study units, two will be assessed through “synchronous take-home examinations”, while two other units will be assessed through “take-home assignments”, with one in particular including an online moot court component. The method of assessment for one study unit is yet to be confirmed.
     
  • M. Not – Out of the 6 core study units, two will be assessed through “take-home assignments.” The method of assessment for four study units, including the practical components for the Notarial Practice study-unit, remain to be confirmed. (Students from this year have noted that a small number of academics have proven to be sensitive to the concern brought forward by these students.)

So not only has the Faculty failed to inform the students about the method of assessment for all study-units prior to the 17th of April deadline established by the University of Malta Senate, but as things currently stand, out of the 31 core study-units:


a) 16 are confirmed to be take-home examinations

b) 7 are confirmed to be take-home assignments

c) The rest (8) are yet to be confirmed

The above do not constitute in any way, shape or form, “a majority” as described by the University of Malta.


GħSL also stresses that no student is aware of any underlying criteria used by the Heads of Department in making such decisions related to the June Examination Session. Rather, it seems that these decisions are taken arbitrarily. As an example, while some study units with the bare minimum of 4ECTS remained in an examination format, other study-units with a more weighted importance for student progression, changed from a normal sitting examination to a take-home assignment. In either case, no explanation was given.

In this light, we appeal for the Heads of Department to be more uniform and balanced in their decisions. We are also reiterating our call to the Faculty of Laws to stick with a traditional, tried-and-tested method of assessment whenever possible, rather than automatically opting for a unproven method without providing all the necessary guarantees to the student’s health, academic and mental well-being that come with it.

 

2) The assertion that no formal vote was asked to be taken during the Faculty Board Meeting is also untrue.

 

It is indeed true that not only the Faculty Board representatives, but also representatives from the three law student organisations on campus were invited to and present at the meeting. Prior to voting, the representatives had stressed that based on the data gathering which had been undertaken, the sheer majority of law students favoured assignments as a mode of assessment. When the vote was being taken, and the votes of the Faculty Board Members were registered, the meeting was terminated abruptly before the student representatives could even formally register their vote.


It is also not factually true that ‘no one asked for a formal vote,’ as student representatives inquired about this both prior, as well as subsequent to the meeting. Either way, this couldn’t have been done during the meeting itself as the meeting was ended abruptly. Although it is true that student representatives were given sufficient time to make their cases, no sufficient solution was given for the issues they raised. Without such a solution, and by simply taking on a pre-approved document, in practice, their voices did not seem to be heard.


What transpired above is an even harsher indictment of the lack of clarity and transparency that has arisen from the way in which these decisions were taken.

 

3) Lastly, it is an indisputable fact that certain Departments have not been able, as of yet, to deliver lectures in a consistent manner.

 

We concede that this is not a universal problem, however, the Faculty cannot negate the fact that in certain study-units, the schedule of lectures given was haphazard, sporadic and inconsistent. The timetables are not updated in a way to keep up with the erratic manner in which some lectures are being held.


Although the Faculty has been mostly uncooperative in this aspect, there have been some lecturers who have been considerate. Nevertheless, the systemic failings are very pertinent and outweigh the individual good.


For example: It has been brought to our attention, that in one specific year, at least 20 lectures have been missed by the respective tutors since the closure of the University of Malta. As of yet, there seems to be no indication of how the lecturers will be able to make-up for these missed lectures. For certain study-units, online lectures only commenced as late as the 24th of March, and the number of lectures held during the Easter Holidays was too far and between to be used as any sort of justification.


It is on this basis that GħSL has expressed, and still expresses, its worry for the lack of preparation that some law students are facing the upcoming June Examinations. Once again, GħSL reiterates its appeal for this to be rectified.

 

Conclusion

 

Lastly, GħSL would like to clarify a final point, to all of its stakeholders: this organisation has never sought to ensure universal acclaim in making such decisions of a public nature, both prior to or after the fact. What it has done, however, is remain the portavoce of law students from all walks of life, with the sheer majority of them expressing varying degrees of disillusionment, disappointment or outright anger at what has transpired during the past weeks. This is what pushes us to act.


Tangible evidence of this is the 64-page document, entitled “A Way Forward”, which was drawn up by this organisation a few days ago. This document was built on the qualitative and quantitative data gathered by this organisation during the past few weeks, in which the student’s aspirations were made demonstrably and unequivocally clear. Subsequently, the data and proposals contained therein, were in most parts ignored by the Faculty Board, and is perhaps tantamount proof of the gulf between the students’ aspirations, and the actual reality that transpired.


GħSL reiterates its call to the Faculty of Laws to address these grievances brought by the students, by working together with, and for the students. Not against them.