New Malta work rights to lure long stay students

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An economic boom means Malta has work for international students and for teachers, Matt Salusbury reports

Students from outside the EU on longer stays in Malta now have the right to work. There’s also a visa scheme to allow recent non-EU graduates to find work. This development is expected to make Malta a more attractive destination for long-stay study.

It’s too early to tell whether the scheme, introduced last year, has had any effect on overall international student numbers. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures from March showed a miniscule overall decrease in the number of foreign students attending English language courses for 2018. Enrolments shrank imperceptibly on the previous year, to 87,112, with average stays slightly shorter than in 2017.

Six of the top ten sending countries were within the EU, where language travel is overwhelmingly a short-stay market.

The long-stay markets are from long-haul regions: Latin America and East Asia. EFL students from Colombia currently stay the longest in Malta (an average of 11 weeks in 2018). They’re followed by South Koreans (7.9 weeks) and Turks (6.4 weeks). Malta’s competitive edge could increase if it can induce students to stay longer, attracting them with the prospect of progressing to an English-medium higher education course and the possibility of post-study work.

Malta is moving to increase its appeal. It is now easier to upgrade a tourist visa to a student visa and students on courses of over three months’ duration can work 20 hours a week while studying. Students from countries with no Maltese consulate now don’t have to apply for a visa in person.

Also, non-EU national students who graduate from one of Malta’s higher education institutes now have six months in which to find a job, and can work full-time in the islands on a post-study work visa in a job “related to their area of specialisation”.

Office of National Statistics figures for Malta’s international graduate numbers in 2015 show that ‘internationals’ made up 6 per cent of undergraduates, with the UK and Kuwait as the biggest sending countries.

Malta’s relatively tiny higher education sector is gradually expanding. The University of Malta has a good reputation, particularly for medicine. According to its website, of the university’s 11,500 students, around 1,000 are foreign nationals.

The website of the relatively new private sector American University of Malta (AUM) views the new work rights as a selling point, noting last year that, “with AUM getting ready to open its doors to new students… new visa and employment policies come as a huge breath of fresh air.” The university adds that many students, “start their life in Malta as English language students before moving on to higher-level education.”

Most Maltese HE institutions are small and new, offering a narrow range of courses. Domain Academy runs computer science courses to degree level. St Martins Institute (affiliated to the University of London) offers BSc courses in computer sciences, accounting, banking and business.

EEC-ITIS Malta Tourism and Languages Institute – a merger of Malta Tourism Institute (ITIS) and EEC Language Centre – runs BA hospitality and tourism courses. Also, the Institute of Tourism Studies Malta is about to open applications for its new BA courses in culinary arts, gastronomy and hospitality management.

There are also good post-study work opportunities. The country has recently taken off as a financial services hub and is enjoying a property boom. Unemployment has fallen sharply while wages remain relatively low.

The same factors may be making it harder for schools to find teachers. Maltese schoolteachers used to work in the summer, with others recruited from abroad for the season. Recent figures show there were 197 fewer teachers for this summer.

Image courtesy of AUM