Education minister evades AUM criteria questions now three times in a row

With the American University of Malta staking its reputation on the renewed licence it has been granted by Malta under circumstances the education minister has recently been reticent to reveal, he is now evading any questions about the criteria on which the new licence had been based.

On Monday, as well as on the preceding Monday, Education Minister Clifton Grima was asked to specify exactly what criteria the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority had used when awarding the beleaguered AUM another five-year licence.

The minister on both occasions completely evaded the question, although he has had weeks to answer it, by giving the standard reply that the answer will be given in another sitting.

The last pair of questions the minister has denied answers to follow last month’s original Parliamentary Question tabled by Opposition MP Jerome Caruana Cilia.

He asked whether the MFHEA had made any “specific criteria” for the AUM to be awarded the licence to operate in Malta. If so, Caruana Cilia asked Grima what those specific criteria were.

The minister, however, shot the question down by simply saying, “every license that is issued for an institution to operate from Malta also includes a list of criteria”.

The minister completely ignored the second part of the question asking what those exact criteria were, which was perhaps the most important part of the question.

The educational institution recently had its accreditation revoked by its home country of Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education and the Committee for Accrediting Academic Institutions Abroad as it apparently “did not comply with basic standards and education conditions”.

The Opposition, which maintains the AUM should never have been accredited in Malta in the first place, has called for a review of its Malta licence and agreement – in particular over the fact that the university’s current student body pales in comparison to what it is supposed to be now four and half years down the line.

Grima misled Parliament last year by saying the audit was published

Grima also misled Parliament last November over the issue, which led independent politician Arnold Cassola to file a complaint against the minister with the Office of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life.

Last November, The Shift reported how Grima misled Parliament when he told Opposition MP Rebekah Borg that the audit leading to the award of the new licence had already been published when it was being kept under wraps.

It turned out the minister was referring to an older audit and not the latest one, which had been published a month after Grima’s misdirection of Parliament and only after The Shift filed a Freedom of Information request for the document.

That audit, on which the MFHEA based its decision to award the beleaguered AUM a further five-year operating licence, had, once it was finally published, found dismal results at the Jordanian-owned tertiary educational facility.

It confirmed that the AUM is still far from achieving its obligatory number of students.

Although the three-day, pre-announced audit at the campus confirmed the AUM is not up to the standards expected from such an institution, the government agency still approved a five-year renewal of its operating licence, which now remains valid until 2027.

The size of the student body had been an essential aspect in the much-hyped Jordanian investment’s sale to the public in 2015, when large parcels of prime public land at Cospicua’s Dock 1 and Marsascala’s Żonqor Point were given to the Jordanian company for a pittance.

Auditor General formally asked to investigate new deal

According to the original plans and the terms of its original licence, the AUM was to reach an intake of 1,200 students by its fourth year of operations. By last April it has not even reached a 10th of its original target.

According to the audit, ‘External Quality Assurance Programmes Audit Report’, by April 2022, when the audit was performed, the AUM had just 113 registered students.

The government however recently removed a clause in the agreement obliging the AUM to have 4,000 students by its 10th year of operations.

That came as part of the new contentious deal Prime Minister Robert Abela recently struck with the AUM, swapping public land in Zonqor Point with another property at Smart City for its promised new campus.

Through the deal, Jordanian construction magnate Hani Hasan Naji Salah was sold a large area of public seafront land for just €0.47c per square metre.

The Opposition last week formally requested the Auditor General to investigate the deal, in which 30,000 square metres of public land at Smart City have been granted to Sadeen Education Investment Limited for the dismal price of 47c per square metre.

The Shift revealed the draft contract last June, reporting the AUM swap of public land it had been given at Zonqor Point, Marsascala for land at Smart City to Smart City included a catch that will mean millions in profit for the Jordanian construction company.

The original 2015 deed, through which the government passed 31,000 square metres of pristine land in Marsascala to the AUM on a temporary emphyteusis for 99 years, includes a clause that specifies that the Zonqor land “may not, under any circumstances, be converted to a perpetual emphyteusis”.

The government, however, overturned the condition and allowed Sadeen Education Investment Ltd to convert the title from a temporary to a perpetual emphyteusis for just €0.47c per square metre.

The Jordanian owner can now convert the newly acquired land as freehold for the ridiculous sum of €14,827. The new deed does not exclude the possibility of Sadeen eventually selling the land or using its buildings for other purposes such as tourism.

                           
                           
                               
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Mark
Mark
1 month ago

Xi kemm-il miljun irċieva l-Labour, bħala organizzazzjoni kriminali, in cash or in kind mingħand dal-kuntrattur biex iddeċieda li bl-aktar mod kriminali jagħtih biċċa art tal-poplu b’xejn?

Il-ħmieġ Laburista f’dan il-kuntratt hu biżżejjed biex il-poplu jneħħih mill-poter imma l-poplu Malti jieħu gost jinsteraq.

carlos
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

kull pajjiz ikollu gvern li jixraqlu- il-poplu malti dan jixraqlu ghaliex dejjem kien egoist u jaghmel dak li jaqbel lilu u mhux lil pajjizu – l-akbar ezempju ta’ dan huma dawk kollha fil-maqjel (il-parlament malti skond anglu farrugia) u li huma mmexxija mill-konsulent ta’ ta l-akbar x pm korrott li qatt rat Malta u tradituri ohra ta’ Malta mmexxija min konrott mizzi, keith tal-kasko u erba’ korrotti ohra.

carlos
1 month ago

clifton grima taf tisthi? dawn Malta hi tal poplu u mhux tieghek – ISTHI – korrott iehor fil-muvument korrott. m’hemmx wiehed sura – kollha korrotti u giddibin.

makjavel
makjavel
1 month ago

The education minister has to keep his mouth shut or else. As all the rest of the cabinet or else. Puppets on strings pulled by the Puppeteer Master , Invictus , he called himself. Corruption King they called him.

Nina
Nina
1 month ago

I hope everyone realises that 47c is equivalent to 5bottles of recycled plastic bottles at the bcrs. So consider that for 5 recycled bottles, some people get a 50c voucher redeemable at the specific shop while others get a piece of land. Ċapċaplu Ġaħan u mur waddab il-fliexken ġol-magna forsi jkollok biex tiekol bukkun illejla

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