The Malta Independent 26 April 2018, Thursday

No Zonqor campus until Dock 1 reaches full complement is condition, not opinion - Minister

Helena Grech Saturday, 13 January 2018, 11:46 Last update: about 4 months ago

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo clarified with The Malta Independent that his statement on the American University of Malta (AUM) on developing the Zonqor Point campus after Dock 1 in Cospicua is filled is not merely a “personal opinion”.

He has repeatedly made the claims prompting questions on whether this was the view of certain government officials or whether the government has the authority to enforce such a situation via the transfer of land agreement or some other agreement with the Jordanian company behind AUM, Sadeen Group.

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In response to this line of questioning, Bartolo clarified that:

“It’s not a personal opinion. When we [government] signed the agreement with the entrepreneur [Sadeen Group] who has gone in for this project it was made very clear the conditions under which the project has to happen. We will be enforcing all the time what the conditions of the project are.

“There is the role of the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) to monitor what is happening at every point to ensure that the conditions under which the project was given the licence to operate, is operating. It is the role of the NCFHE to monitor what is happening, to ensure that the conditions are adhered to.”

Bartolo was then pressed to say whether this was a condition included in the contract signed or a clause in some other agreement. He replied: “It is not a matter of being so specific. What is very clear is that they had applied for a campus according to numbers that they said they would recruit to be able to carry out their programmes. They started operating at the campus in Cospicua. We must first ensure that the campus is being used to the full because only once that is happening then one can justify the development of further property wherever it is.”

“It must walk hand in hand with the development of the project. I must say that so far all the conditions that were set are being adhered to”.

A clause in the transfer of land contract signed between the government and Sadeen Group in March 2016 states that AUM shall enjoy right of use over “Zone B”, meaning the Zonqor Point campus, “subject to such terms and conditions as may be required by the relevant authorities”.

AUM will be opening its doors for the Spring semester on 15 January, with reports emerging that some 23 students are enrolled.

The project has been subject to much speculation after it emerged that AUM fired some 12 faculty members over the Christmas break, just before their probationary period came to an end.

AUM provost John Ryder confirmed with this newsroom that six professors and a few adjunct staff have been hired to replace the outgoing faculty members, and that the NCFHE is currently reviewing the new batch for approval, as per the conditions of its licence to operate as a university.

AUM has been marred by controversy from its announcement to the Maltese public after it became known that virgin public land at Zonqor Point, Marsascala would be transferred to a Jordanian company behind the project named Sadeen Group. The company’s main operations have been in tourism, construction, and real-estate. According to Sadeen’s website, it also runs Mayar International Schools, a K-12 school in Jordan.

The government eventually announced a “compromise” by reducing the footprint at Zonqor Point and dividing up the AUM in two campuses, Dock 1 in Cospicua and Zonqor Point. 

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