The chairman of the Malta Further and Higher Education Authority suddenly stepped down barely a year into the position and just a few weeks after the higher education regulator controversially renewed the beleaguered American University of Malta’s licence to keep it in operation for another five years.
The Shift has confirmed from reliable sources that Prof John P. Portelli, a University of Toronto renowned academic, stepped down at the end of last year.
His resignation has been kept under wraps by the government as it came just days after the AUM was granted a five-year renewal licence, even though the Jordanian-owned university failed its external audit and other reviews that form part of the obligations in the original licence.
Sources said that although the MFHEA chairman’s resignation is being officially described as “for personal reasons”, the unexpected and sudden resignation came just after the Authority’s decision to give the AUM another five years of breathing space.
It is understood an official announcement has not been made yet to buy time for a replacement and to put some distance between the AUM’s licence renewal and the regulator’s resignation.
Portelli was named MFHEA chairman when an external quality assurance audit report was being concluded, which found the AUM to not be adhering to its original licence obligations.
The quality assurance also found the AUM failed in most of the criteria set out in 2015 when the original five-year licence had been issued under the previous chairmanship of Martin Scicluna.
While the AUM, through its campus in Cospicua, has attracted a mere fraction of the number of students it had originally pledged, and on which the government sold the concept to the public to grant the Jordanians a large stretch of public land in Marsacala to build a campus, Prime Minister Robert Abela has re-negotiated the deal.
Obliging the Jordanians to release their title on the Zonqor land, the government agreed to give Sadeen Education Investment Ltd a large portion of public land at Smart City and the right to convert the title from temporary to perpetual emphyteusis for just 47 cents per square metre.
The Opposition last month asked the National Audit Office to investigate this deal.
Maybe somebody with a bit of Integrity
Not a bit but an abundance of integrity. This person is an academic who is a Professor in Toronto University and who made a good name for Malta
I know Portelli since childhood as a principled righteous and erudite person. He should motivate his resignation rather than allow government sources to imply it was for personal reasons. If indeed it was for personal reasons that are not related to Government interference, then so be it. If on the other hand the resignation is for other work related reasons, he should go public about it as this is a public post and the tax paying citizen has the right to know.
It’s amply clear why he resigned so soon after the extension. People of integrity will not take nonsense from anybody; including government members.
You are rushing to conclusions without knowing the facts
How low can this government go.