The Barts Medical School in Gozo currently has 42 students, a number which sources in the medical field have described as “very disappointing” for the international school.
The Shift contacted the medical school amid rumours it was wrapping up its project in Malta. A spokesperson confirmed only 42 students had enrolled despite the London School of Medicine and Dentistry extending its deadline for applications by a month.
Students, mostly British, will pay some €35,000 a year in tuition fees.
This is a far cry from the level of interest in the school that Health Minister Chris Fearne had said existed. Last January, Dr Fearne had said the number of foreign students interested in studying at Barts medical school in Gozo had increased from 1,000 to 1,500, according to information sent by the Barts Medical School Dean in England. Dr Fearne was replying to questions in Parliament put by Nationalist MP Chris Said.
Speaking to The Shift now, Barts’ spokesperson in London said the intake of 42 students met the school’s expectations and insisted it did not impinge on the project’s sustainability. “Enrolment met our expectations in year 1. In year 2, we will have 60 places available,” the spokesperson said.
After a series of setbacks, the school revised its targets as it had first intended to enrol at least 60 students for the first year of its operations in Gozo, rising to about 300 after the first five years, sources said.
The school had planned to open its doors in September 2016 but this had to be postponed by more than a year after Vitals Global Healthcare – the mysterious private company which will run a number of privatised health services in Gozo and St Luke’s Hospital in Malta – failed to deliver a new €10 million school.
Works on the purpose-built campus on the Gozo General Hospital site are behind schedule and Barts had to move to the Gozo Sixth Form in Victoria to avoid any further delays.
The school’s spokesperson also confirmed that Barts has not altered its plans for the new Gozo campus in conjunction with Vitals Global Healthcare, whose ultimate beneficiaries remain unknown.
Following the announcement of the project in 2015, Malta’s medical students and the Dean of the University of Malta’s faculty of medicine had raised a red flag over the deal because of doubts on whether the country had enough resources to fulfil the obligations set in the agreement.
Experts in the field questioned whether there were enough consultants to tutor students from Barts at Mater Dei Hospital, and whether the government would increase the staff complement.
At this stage, Barts’ students are still in the clinical phase of their training and have not started their training at Mater Dei.