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University welcomes 3,500 students

Yesterday marked the start of Freshers’ Week at the University of Malta. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Yesterday marked the start of Freshers’ Week at the University of Malta. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The University of Malta welcomed 3,561 new students to campus yesterday, many of whom made their way to the quadrangle for the first day of Freshers’ Week.

Females still hold the upper hand in terms of numbers, with a university population of 6,516 compared to 4,825 male students. That makes a total of 11,341 students for this academic year.

As is usual during the first day of Freshers’ Week, the quadrangle was teeming with students eager to find out more about the various organisations that had set up stands to promote themselves and recruit new members. The first-years may also have wanted to bag a few freebies along the way.

A variety of activities will be taking place throughout the week, including debates, live music and the now-infamous water fight between student organisations from the faculties of architecture and law.

Some student organisations expressed their disappointment at being on the periphery of the quad while commercial and political stands got the lion’s share of space in the centre.

Although the sight of lost students asking for directions was as ubiquitous as ever, their quest was made slightly easier this year, with colour-coded circles stuck to the ground acting like the fabled breadcrumbs to guide students to their respective destinations.

In total, 697 courses are being offered this year, an increase of 25 courses/areas of study compared to last year.

In his opening speech at Sir Temi Zammit Hall, KSU President Stefan Balzan announced the setting up of a Research and Innovation Fund worth €10,000. Mr Balzan said the difference between this fund and last year’s Student Opportunity Fund was that this year KSU was aiming to invest money in more long-term projects related to students’ courses.

Giving examples of how the fund could be used, he said commerce students could use it to start a business while science and architecture students could use the money for projects which would have previously been out of their reach because of lack of funds.

He said the fund would be sponsored by KSU’s corporate partners.

This year the University has also set up a Green Travel Plan, to encourage more students to use public transport.

Students who use their own transport said they would consider catching the bus to University, especially due to the hassle of parking, but only once the system improved.

Reviews of the new bus service to University from around the island were mixed. While many students arrived on time and without any major hiccups, others were not so lucky.

One student said she got on the bus for free because the ticket machine was not working but was then dropped off at the front entrance to Mater Dei Hospital.

The mother of another student from Għargħur who contacted The Times recounted how it took her son about three hours to get to University. After walking to Naxxar to catch a direct route because he felt it was quicker than waiting for a bus, several buses to University passed by full up.

Her son and his friends decided to catch a bus coming from the opposite direction, in the hope of getting to University from Mosta.

However, when they saw that the bus stops in Mosta were crowded, they decided to continue to the end of the route in Buġibba, and then finally came back round to University.

A spokesman for Arriva said the company was sorry to hear of the students’ extended trip, and added that Għargħur would have a direct route as of November 7.

“Feedback and comments such as these are being fed into the system and we are monitoring instances of overcrowding on routes as trends change with students returning to University, and will take action accordingly in persistent problem areas,” she said.

While Arriva themselves had a stand, it remained unmanned for some time, prompting some students to joke that the promoters were themselves waiting for a bus.

Meanwhile, the Malta Union of Teachers welcomed the University’s decision to accept all the students who applied to read for a BEd course.

More than 200 first-year undergraduates, aspiring to become teachers, received an e-mail last Saturday informing them they had been accepted on the course.

The union said it was satisfied that its appeals had been heeded.

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