The nomination process for the election of new rector at the University of Malta closes today as incumbent Prof. Roger Ellul Micallef is expected to submit his name at the eleventh hour.
The build-up to the election has outraged academics as government manoeuvred its choice in a move deemed to be a “coup” and an imposition, with all government representatives on the University Council nominating Prof. Juanito Camilleri, CEO of Melita Cable.
All the deans had previously called on Prof. Ellul Micallef to submit his nomination for a third time at the helm of university, but last week the 13 government-appointed representatives put forward the name of Prof. Camilleri, prompting academics to question the institution’s autonomy.
His nomination was preceded in late January by a clean sweep on the university council of all the government appointees except three members who were reappointed: Godfrey Grima, Angela Callus and Paul Attard.
“We immediately smelled a rat when government changed its representatives on the council, as the rector’s election day was drawing nearer” a non-government representative on the council said. “But we never expected it to be so crass.”
UMASA secretary Michael Saliba said the association hoped that “the government has not decided to start to have its way at the university through the strength of the number of appointees it has on the council, in direct conflict with the spirit of autonomy, open discussion and free thinking at the university”.
“This manoeuvring by the government was so ‘in-your-face’ it takes us back to Mintoff’s times of imposition on university,” another academic said. “It goes to show how autonomous the university is from the government.”
With the 13 signatures, Camilleri’s election looks like a foregone conclusion although it may still not turn out to be a landslide victory if the other members are on the deans’ side.
If he contests, the incumbent’s votes might expose a clear rift between academics and the government, not so much because they are against Camilleri but as an assertion of autonomy.
Camilleri is an IT specialist and associate professor with six years experience heading the state-owned mobile telephony company, Go Mobile since its inception, steering it to an extraordinary 50 per cent market penetration in competition with Vodafone. Last September, he moved to Melita Cable as CEO.
Ellul Micallef climbed the university ladder after working as medical consultant and lecturer in hospitals and universities abroad. Five years ago, he was uncontested but in 1996 he defeated philosopher Kenneth Wain at the ballot with 22 out of 23 votes to become Peter Serracino Inglott’s successor, after having served as pro-Rector since 1991.