Workshop 3 in The University of Malta

Event Date: 4th May 2016

Address: Campus of The University of Malta, Msida. MSD 2080, Malta

The third ESTPORT workshop entitled ‘Supporting the Dual Career of Student-Athletes at University’ was held on the 4th May, 2016 at the Institute for PE and Sport.  In his introduction, Dr. Andrew Decelis explained what has been done so far and how the aims of this project are being achieved.  Ryan Sciortino, a waterpolo and handball player and student at the Faculty of ICT presented his experience in this project and how any challenges were overcome during this academic year.  The main support required was related to changes in time-tables which were clashing with his evening training sessions.  Given the tight schedule of training and lectures, he also needed a quiet place where to study and his request was accommodated by his tutor.  Ryan also gave an account of his experience of training waterpolo for a long period abroad. He explained that with better guidance, he could have also read for a degree while he was playing abroad rather than starting his studies when he returned to Malta.

A round table discussion with the contribution of three sport tutors, eight student-athletes and the co-ordinators of this project followed.  Various suggestions were put forward by the tutors during this discussion. These include setting up meetings with Sport Associations and keeping regular communication with them, while compiling a database of student-athletes and potential tutors who could support them.  It was also suggested that tutors are allocated a number of hours a year as part of their administrative workload.  Reflecting on the project so far, one of the tutors explained that his main input was related to administrative issues, and once a good rapport has been established with the students, this can be extended to guidance in studies related matters. 

Students also came up with many interesting reflections and suggestions. An important point was raised by one of the students who suggested that slots are allocated at the Sports facilitates for training sessions of University student-athletes. However, the current facilities are limited to certain sports, and hopefully this will be more possible once the whole sports complex is built.  The sports manager of the Institute for PE and sport explained that the current facilities are already available and lecture rooms are also made available for study slots when they are not booked for lectures.  These lecture rooms also double up as computer labs to cater for the needs of the students. 

The issue of funding was raised by one of the students. Students find it hard to cope with studies, training and traveling expenses, particularly since they have limited time for part-time work. One of the student suggested that government supports students in the same way that it does with employees through its flexi-scheme reducing working hours of work to allow more time for training.  A suggestion that followed was also related to extending the duration of University courses to allow enough time for training. As an example, a three-year course could be covered in four or five years. However, since Maltese students are paid a monthly stipend by government, this might be challenging to implement. It was suggested that students would have to forfeit the stipend during any extra years.

Other students referred to funding for post-grad studies in sport, and for professional training.  The current funding allocation by government for sport scholarships was explained, stressing the importance that student-athletes are up-to-date with any information about funding. It was suggested that such information is sent to all student-athletes. The need to have a database of all student-athletes was further stressed by the students. Admissions could help out in this regards by adding a note on the application form asking applicants to write if they are playing any sport in the national league, and at what level.

Asked about how regular meetings with tutors in this project where required and for what reasons, these varied for students attending different courses. The main needs at present were related to administrative issues and in assistance with time-management. For some students, it was enough to have the security of having a tutor in case they need any kind of support.  Others also referred to email communication as being enough for certain requests.

A final concern raised by the students was the clash of exams with games such as the GSSE.  Students suggested that exams are done in the first two weeks of June to avoid such clashes. It was noted that registrar does every effort to go round the dates of such games when allocating slots for exams.  A final recommendation was to set a meeting with the new rector to discuss sport at University and the different ways we could support student-athletes.

The workshop concluded with the presentation of the ESTPORT merchandise to students and tutors and with an informal networking standing lunch.

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