Two candidates have submitted their names to become the 82nd rector of the University of Malta, after nominations for the post closed last week.
The election will see current rector Alfred J. Vella vying for a second term at the helm of the university. Vella is being challenged by the dean of the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy Frank Bezzina.
The new rector will be selected through a secret ballot held among members of the university council during an extraordinary council meeting. The council, which is presided by former European Commissioner Karmnu Vella, will convene on 25 March.
The council includes government representatives, representatives of the university senate, members elected by the university’s academic staff, and student representatives, among others.
A full list of members can be found here. A majority of the council’s members are nominated in one way or another by the government.
Vella has been rector since his election back in 2016. He has served as head of the Department of Chemistry between 1997 and 2007 and also held the role of Dean of the Faculty of Sciences and was pro-rector between 2006 and 2016.
Throughout his academic career, he has mainly lectured and carried out research in the field of Environmental Chemistry.
Vella is also a regular forensic expert in judicial inquiries on chemical accidents, fires and explosions. and scientific consultant to various state entities and he is currently the Director of the Malta National Authority for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
His challenger Bezzina lectures in Management Science and Decision Analysis, Operations Research and Business Research Methods as well as supervising candidates reading for a PhD in business management. He has been dean since 2016.
A mathematician by training, Bezzina graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Malta in 1995, obtaining a Masters Degree in Applied Statistics from Sheffield Hallam University in 2000 and a PhD from the University of Malta in 2004.
His research interests include Organisational Sciences, and over the years he has been engaged in a number of consultancy jobs in both the private and public sector. He was appointed non-executive Director of the Central Bank for the term 2018-2023 and was also appointed non-executive Chairperson of Wasteserv in February 2020.
Concerns have been raised by some academics, most notably by Andrew Azzopardi, the dean of the Faculty of Social Wellbeing, about the absence of a debate between the two candidates in the run-up to that meeting that is to elect the man who will, in addition to being responsible for the running of the university, also represents it on a national level.
Azzopardi has said that he was “uncomfortable” with the absence of a debate given the importance of the university to Malta’s society.
He stressed that such an important role merited having the two prospective candidates debate each other on a national platform.
What do you feel about a new rector being elected without a debate?