Qualification from a foreign university must match the local and EU regulations for one to be granted a professional warrant. This was explained in a judgement delivered on 16 December, 2016 by the Administrative Review Tribunal presided by Magistrate Dr Charmaine Galea, and Engineers Raymond Vassallo and Norman Zammit in a case Alfred Buttigieg -v- Professional Engineers Board.
Buttigieg filed an appeal from a decision taken by the board, which declined granting him a warrant to practise as an engineer. He explained that he is a Chartered Engineer (C.Eng) and according to the Mutual Recognition of Qualification Act (Chapter 451 of the Laws of Malta), it is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree. Buttigieg continued his studies at the University of Brunel for a Master’s degree. He has a warrant to practise as an Engineer in the UK and had commenced a Ph.D. at the University of Surrey. An application for a warrant in Malta was turned down because, according to the board, he did not obtain the level stipulated in the Engineering Profession Act (Chapter 321), which states:
(2) A person shall not qualify for a warrant unless –
(d) he shall satisfy the Board that –
(i) he is in possession of such degree of the University of Malta or an equivalent academic qualification relating to the engineering profession both of which, at the relevant time, are recognised by the Board to be sufficient for the purposes of this article;”
This legislation implements an EU regulation on the recognition of university degrees. The Engineering Council according to Buttigieg is bound to recognise his qualification and therefore, issue a warrant. He asked the Tribunal to overturn the Board’s decision and recommend the Minister to issue a warrant.
The Engineering Profession Board replied that according to the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, it has no judicial relationship with Buttigieg. Furthermore that, according to the Board, it followed the guidelines of the Malta Qualifications Recognition Information Centre and as such it arrived to a correct conclusion that a warrant should not be granted.
The Tribunal first dealt with the plea whether the parties had juridical relationship. According to Article 181B(1) of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure:
1) The judicial representation of the Government in judicial acts and actions shall vest in the head of the government department in whose charge the matter in dispute falls:
Provided that, without prejudice to the provisions of this article:
(a) actions for the collection of amounts due to Government may in all cases be instituted by the Accountant General;
(b) actions involving questions relating to Government employment or to obligations to serve Government may in all cases be instituted by the Principal Permanent Secretary;
(c) actions relating to contracts of supplies or of works with Government may in all cases be instituted by the Director of Contracts.”
(2) The Attorney General shall represent Government in all judicial acts and actions which owing to the nature of the claim may not be directed against one or more heads of other government departments.”
The Board is established under Article 7 of the Professional Engineers Act, which has to recommend to the Minister who is entitled to a warrant. This is a special law and all appeals are to be heard by the Tribunal and as a result the appeal was filed correctly.
The Tribunal analysed the evidence produced, where Professor Simon Fabri pointed out that for a warrant to be issued, the applicant must have 240 academic credits. The qualification of Chartered Engineer degree equated to a Bachelor’s degree only if it follows the guidelines established by the Board. If one obtains a C.Eng with fewer than 240 credits, one would have to top these up. Since the applicant did not attend the University of Malta, then the Board would analyse the application in more detail.
Prof Joseph Agius testified on the competence of Buttigieg, who assisted in the conversion of the power station from coal to oil and was involved in the building of the Gozo Channel ships and considered him as “highly professional”. Mr Buttigieg testified on and explained to the Tribunal his academic qualifications and his vast experience as an engineer. He had commenced to study for a BSc, but discontinued due to pressures of his job as head of the Engineering department at the Drydocks.
Professor Fabri told the Tribunal that even if he continued with his studies as BSc in Mathematics and Computing, this would not have been considered since it is not an Engineering degree. He further explained that the C.Eng is not a qualification but a registration with the UK Engineering Council and does acknowledge certain qualifications.
The Tribunal held that in accordance with the Professional Engineering Act, an Engineer is a person with an Engineering degree obtained from the University of Malta or a foreign institute, then lists several requisites for one to exercise this profession. The Tribunal quoted from a letter the UK Council had written in November 2014, that C.Eng is a qualification according to the EU Directive 2005/36 and “the legal presumption is that Malta will grant the warrant without further assessment.”
The Tribunal looked at Buttigieg’s academic achievements and held that his MSc from Brunel University, should be taken into consideration, but gives 90 credits. He obtained a further 94 credits for what he had obtained when studying MSc in Mathematics and Computing, but according to Professor Fabri this could not be taken into consideration. Furthermore, his C.Eng was obtained due to his experience in Engineering. Therefore, the only degree that is taken into consideration was his MSc from Brunel, which is not sufficient for the 240 credits mark.
Therefore, the Court had to turn down the Buttigieg’s appeal.
Dr Malcolm Mifsud
This article may also be accessed on Malta Today.
For more information you can contact one of our Team Members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates.