2: Small but Complex: The Governance and Management of Public Higher Education Institutions – the Case of Malta

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This chapter examines the relationship between the geographical smallness of an island and its impact on the governance and management of public higher education institutions (HEIs). The University of Malta serves as a case study and as a basis for providing a commentary on the latest developments in this subject. The chapter also attempts to elicit comparative lessons from other small islands with similar conditions to Malta. Essentially, it reviews the small island realities of HEIs, as they strive to serve their island’s economic, social and cultural ambitions through predominantly public-sourced funds, while in parallel performing on a global higher education stage that is increasingly becoming more international, privatized, competitive and commodified. The ultimate outcome of this piece is to create a framework of the strengths, challenges and barriers that public HEIs in small islands experience. Their performance is tested against the benchmarks of efficiency, effectiveness and quality, which, in turn, are impacted by: the state’s overbearing presence in the financial and governing interests of the institution; national policies on education and beyond; an ongoing drive for massification of higher education; economic pressures and persistent demands from employers; transnational expectations, largely driven by employment targets; and sustainability issues.

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