Audit allowing AUM’s licence to be extended remains under wraps

Education Minister Clifton Grima misled parliament when saying it was published


A government entity responsible for issuing the latest five-year licence renewal for the beleaguered American University of Malta has not published the latest audit report on which it based the decision.

Education Minister Clifton Grima, who is politically responsible for the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority (MFHEA), misled parliament when he said, “the report was published on the website of the MFHEA” in replies to Opposition MP Rebekah Borg.

The Shift checked the minister’s claim and found the information to be incorrect –  the report is still missing even though the independent authority’s decision to renew the AUM’s licence was taken last August.

A spokesperson for the licensing authority confirmed with The Shift that the AUM was given a new five-year lifeline until 2027, despite breaching almost all of the conditions of its original licence, which was first issued in 2016 by then-MFHEA chairman Martin Scicluna.

Pressed to state whether the promised crucial audit, part of the original licence’s conditions, had been conducted and published, the spokesman said it had been carried out last April.

The results, however, have not yet been made available to the public, the spokesperson confirmed. He would not explain why.

“The results were satisfactory, and the programme audit report will be published on the MFHEA’s website,” the spokesperson said without explaining when or why they were so late in being made public given the MFHEA’s usually rigid rules.

Last year the Authority, led by government-appointed Chairman John Portelli, had already gone out of its way to ensure the AUM would continue to remain in operation despite failing to adhere to licence conditions.

Following an initial external quality assurance audit carried out in 2021, in which the AUM faired rather poorly, the licensing authority decided to renew the Cottonera-based university’s license for an additional year, up to mid-2022, instead of the usual five.

This exception was given so that the MFHEA could, in the meantime, carry out a second audit, in the process giving the AUM some breathing room to put its house in order so it could be granted the five-year renewal.

During the first audit, the AUM failed to meet the standards required in eight of the 11 quality assurance standards on which it was evaluated, apart from other issues raised, particularly concerning its financing.

The Authority had insisted at the time that a new audit would be carried out and that it would be made public before the five-year licence would be renewed.

Yet the licence was renewed last summer without anyone knowing the criteria on which the decision was based or the conclusions of the latest audit.

The five-year renewal coincided with a deal struck between the government and the Jordanian owners of the construction company behind the university for a swap and outright sale of public land granted to the Jordanians by disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

According to the latest deal, Robert Abela conceded to sell the Jordanians public land at Smart City for just €0.47c per square metre to build their second campus instead of at Zonqor Point, Marsaskala, over which there had been a public uproar.

While according to the terms of its 2016 licence, the AUM was to have a minimum of 1,200 students by its fourth year of operations, it has failed to come anywhere near the target with less than 200 students on campus, primarily on scholarships provided by the university.


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15 days ago

There is a scandalous self accreditation system going on in Malta. Local certifications are led by the numbers not by the quality and international standards.
Lowering the Entry Qualifications for University and MCAST is a confirmation.
The results in the standard of basic knowledge by graduates isa confirmation.
The latest suspect government document is the Engineering Warrant Holders List, which was previously given on the Government Gazette in Warrant Numerical Order , sequential to the Warrant Number, without any numbers skipped , this has been recently changed to alphabetical order . Recently it was found out that a Warranted Engineer was not allowed to vote in the Engineering Board Election because his name was not on the Warrant List. This is extremely serious and could have landed the person in legal problems , because if one’s name is not in the government gazette warrant list , the person cannot operate as an Engineer.
The Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi was asked to clarify why this list has large batches of missing warrant numbers , and why some engineers with a warrant were not in the list,
The minister made all the handstands possible and told all the fables but did not answer the Hon.Ing. Mark Anthony Sammut and Hon. Ing. Ryan Callus questions.
There is something smelly and suspect going on. The present Chairman of the Board doing his best to keep all information for himself , despite being asked for the information by the Elected members of the board. The other three appointed members have been neutered , possibly even signing a Non Disclosure Agreement as has been requested by the Chairman to sign.
The final question: Are the non allocated Warrant Numbers reserved for persons who have been given a warrant by stealth?

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