It was in 1901 when the Maltese University student finally caught up with the times. He made that extra leap into the unknown. It was Arturo Mercieca – a future Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal – who took that courageous step. With the young man’s fervour, with a keen sense of observation of what was happening around him both in the university students’ world and in the much wider political world, and with a propensity towards defending his fellow students, but even more so with a sense of patriotism towards his own nation, Mercieca put together a small group of students from the modest University population of his time and set up the Comitato Permanente Universitario. From then on the student movement which became a leader and a mainstay in the University of Malta never looked back. Not that this was a smooth journey. Quite the opposite; the students had to face many assaults on their autonomy, but the adverse situations which developed along the 1901- 1971 period showed the mettle of which the Maltese students were made of. In 1935 the British colonial administration even dissolved the CPU and in its stead set up its own version under the name of Students’ Representative Council to control and mitigate the Maltese students’ ardour; but to no avail. Student leaders such as Arturo Mercieca, Ugo P. Mifsud, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, Herbert Ganado, Giorgio Borg Olivier, Guido de Marco, and many, many others, showed what future national leaders would be made of.
The book Student representation at the University of Malta – A history: 1901 – 1971 discusses from available primary documentary sources the evolution of this student movement, an example for student organisations that work for the benefit of the student corps in Malta. It also shows how the University students were constantly close to national affairs, monitoring and participating in the political and social events which shaped the Maltese nation.