From her humble roots as a clerk with the civil service “many years ago”, Dr Rose Anne Cuschieri’s career exemplifies the mission cherished by the Authority she currently leads: the value of education in enhancing both individuals and society as a whole. 

Dr Cuschieri’s enduring commitment to education started when she opted to become a temporary teacher in the Church school sector – a role she maintained for a decade while pursuing her own education, first at the University of Malta and then the University of Sheffield. Transitioning from teaching, she moved to the post of School Counsellor, and before long, she completed her doctorate and embarked on a new chapter: as Director for Education Service within the Church schools sector. 

Reflecting on her 10 years in this role, she recalls with a smile, “they were very demanding yet fulfilling years in which there was a lot of work to be done in building up and strengthening the Secretariat.” 

Afterward, Dr Rose Anne Cuschieri opted to step into the post-compulsory education sector, taking on the role of CEO at the former NCFHE (National Commission for Further and Higher Education). Currently in her sixth year at its helm, she shares, “this post has opened many new opportunities and broadened my horizons more than I ever thought possible.” 

Apart from her position as CEO, Dr Cuschieri also holds roles as the local representative of the Bologna Follow Up Group and Co-Chair of the BFUG Working Group on Fundamental Values in Education. She is also an elected board member on the Steering Committee for Education (CDEDU), which oversees the Council of Europe’s programmes in the field of education and advises the Committee of Ministers on educational matters. Furthermore, she represents the Council of Europe in the European Wergeland Centre of Norway. 

The foundation of the MFHEA, which stands for Malta Further & Higher Education Authority, dates to 2005, Dr Cuschieri explains. During that year, the Malta Qualifications Council was formed, with a focus on developing the national qualifications framework for lifelong learning and professional development. “This framework aimed to facilitate the recognition of qualifications within the Maltese market,” she affirms. Additionally, in 2006, the Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) was established, to provide consultation on higher education in Malta. “In 2010, the two entities were merged to create NCFHE,” she elaborates, “going on to transition into an Authority in 2021, gaining greater autonomy and expanding its role in the local and international further and higher education sectors.” This overview brings us up to date on the composition of the Authority today. 

Moving on to the present, the CEO explains that the main objective currently is to broaden the Authority’s engagement with international networks. “We do not want to remain local – in fact, even our licenses are not all local. We are getting a substantial number of requests from international entities to become licensed by us. We have managed to establish strong ties with other European countries and beyond,” she discloses. 

In fact, Dr Cuschieri is pleased to share that MFHEA has become a member of the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education, an organisation committed to enhancing further education in Europe. Additionally, MFHEA has joined the Global Academic Integrity Network (GAIN), a consortium of education quality and integrity agencies worldwide joining forces to combat the rise of commercial academic cheating services targeting students. The Authority also forms part of ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) a forum which brings together European and Asian countries. “This marks a significant achievement for our Authority, as we are aligning ourselves with a distinguished network of further and higher education networks across Europe and beyond,” Dr Rose Anne states.

Regarding the latter, the Authority had the honour of hosting the ninth ASEM Education Minister meeting last January. The meeting focused on building a stronger and more inclusive education landscape in Asia and Europe. She further adds, “we are also affiliates of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education and are hoping to become members in the very near future.” 

“These are some of the amazing opportunities that inspire our Authority to continue focusing and extending our recognition, not only within the local sphere, but also globally. Through our partnerships and initiatives, we aim to increase awareness of the importance of education and the acknowledgment of qualifications, furthering our impact on individuals worldwide. We really want to show that having a recognised qualification makes a lot of sense and helps a person to progress, not just academically but also on a personal level as an individual,” the CEO asserts. 

Quoting MFHEA’s mission statement, the Authority is entrusted with fostering “the development and achievement of excellence in further and higher education in Malta through research, effective licensing, accreditation, quality assurance, and recognition of qualifications established under the Malta Qualifications Framework.” Outlining the work being carried out in this regard, Dr Rose Anne Cuschieri affirms that, as an independent, transparent, and international Authority, MFHEA is dedicated to upholding the highest education standards, both in teaching and in learning. 

“It is our mission to foster a skilled community of empowered individuals equipped with the necessary abilities to pursue their aspirations and shape the future. We believe in quality assurance for confident futures. Through collaborative effort, we ensure that individuals who further their learning receive the best education possible,” she says, affirming that all of this is done through research, accreditation, licensing, quality assurance, validation and recognition of qualifications aligned with the Malta Qualifications Framework, which works in parallel with the European Qualifications Framework. “This also includes vocational education, tertiary institutions, work-based learning, informal and non-formal learning too,” the CEO highlights. 

Looking ahead to the future, the CEO believes that each year brings another opportunity for MFHEA to further its success and growth. “In 2024, we remain focused on our mission to continue fostering innovation and knowledge exchange within the education sector by encouraging collaborative research projects among institutions and universities. This ultimately aims to drive innovation and facilitate the sharing of expertise and resources among academic institutions while also opening the possibility to promote lifelong learning,” she shares. 

This does not come without its challenges, of course. As Dr Cuschieri explains, “online learning poses a challenge. It is becoming more popular, particularly after COVID-19, and while we know that in this way, more students are being reached, at the same time, we need to make sure that we maintain quality.” She also considers the challenge that lies within the increasing number of institutions seeking licensing from MFHEA. “We are very proud, but obviously this asks for more manpower, which at times we may be lacking,” she acknowledges. 

Despite this, the CEO remains determined to carry the Authority’s mission ever forward. “We remain dedicated to enhancing our visibility, as well as strengthening our global education landscape. We also want to deepen our collaboration and participation in projects and share practices with other institutions. By supporting our network and expertise, we can contribute to shaping the future of education on a global level,” she states, underlining the importance of staying engaged with various European and global groups, ensuring that Malta is on the map in this regard. 

“We strongly believe in high quality teaching and learning; we believe that education is a right of every individual, irrelevant of social status and nationality; we believe in values and ethics as being the backbone of education,” Dr Cuschieri concludes, as she anticipates the upcoming launch of the National Strategy for Further and Higher Education later this year. 

“Overall, we are committed to driving positive change and making a meaningful impact in the field of education. We are excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to continuing our journey of growth and excellence.” 

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