The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

TMID Editorial: AUM - Robbing Peter to pay Peter

Friday, 8 July 2022, 10:36 Last update: about 2 months ago

Five years after Joseph Muscat’s government gifted the Sadeen group with a huge tract of virgin land at Zonqor point, Robert Abela’s government says it has taken it back.

“We stuck to our promise of giving Zonqor back to the public,” Prime Minister Robert Abela has proudly claimed, but the real situation is not as straightforward as he tries to make it seem.

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On Wednesday, Parliament approved a resolution that will see AUM relinquish its title over part of the Dock 1 area in Cospicua and a 40,000 sqm area at Zonqor Point in Marscala. But in return, it will be getting a sizeable chunk of land at Smart City in Kalkara.

The previous administration had promised to take back the areas given to AUM if the latter did not perform and reach its contractual obligations. But it never said that it would be giving them another piece of land.

Lo and behold, AUM failed miserably at reaching its targets. While it did carry out restoration works on the Knights building in Cospicua, it has failed to reach projected student numbers and staffing levels. Furthermore, the university’s finances are in the red, with debts racking up and nothing much to show for it.

The government said in its resolution that this was a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the educational system globally.

But AUM’s problems started well before the pandemic.

Ever since its inception, the university has been plagued by resignations, poor student enrolment and a controversy over its accreditation. Furthermore, it had angered residents of the Three Cities with its plans to build a massive dormitory which it does not really need.

So to say that AUM failed to reach its targets because of Covid is an insult to our intelligence. This project was doomed right from the start.

It seems that the government is reluctant to admit that this project failed and failed miserably. It still talks about the AUM as some upcoming success story, despite the educational institution’s dismal track record.

What good will the relocation to Smart City do? What happens if, even after the relocation, AUM fails to reach its targets?

Robert Abela said on Wednesday that this move is important because Malta needs to attract the foreign investment. But what investment is he talking about – the kind of investment where Sadeen builds classrooms and dormitories that will remain empty?

Does he want us to believe that AUM’s fortunes will suddenly improve and that thousands of students will enrol for its courses?

If the American University of Malta was just a dream, a fantasy that remained just that, then the company behind it should just pack up and leave. We gave them a chance, gave them the land for free, yet the project is nowhere near to what we were promised – 4,000 students and 300 jobs.

So why are we giving them land at Smart City? Why not attract some other foreign company whose project is actually viable?

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