Updated 10pm

Land in Senglea and Marsascala earmarked for the American University of Malta is to return to the government, Prime Minister Robert Abela has said.

Speaking on TVM news show Xtra, Abela said that the government was revising the land concession as part of a “new vision” for the university project. 

News of Abela's announcement was broken by TVM.

The new deal will see AUM keep its Cospicua campus while dropping its plans to build a campus on Outside Development Land at Żonqor in Marsascala as well as plans to build a dormitory instead of a car park in Senglea.

AUM will be returning the land in exchange for campus expansion at Smart City, Abela said.

Both those AUM projects have run into considerable opposition.

AUM plans to build a campus in Marsascala drew nationwide protests in 2015, with the government eventually pledging to not allow that project until AUM had filled its Cospicua campus. 

The university’s plans to build a dormitory instead of a car park in Senglea also attracted widespread irritation within Cottonera, with even Labour whip Glenn Bedingfield making a public plea for the university to change tack.

The Planning Authority rejected an initial application in 2019 but the AUM had appealed that verdict. The appeal, which also concerns AUM plans to add a floor to the Knight's Building next to its Cospicua campus, is due to be heard next month. 

When it was first announced in 2015, AUM investors Sadeen Group said they intended to attract hundreds of students to the private university within a few years of operation. 

But the educational institute only managed to attract a fraction of those numbers and even missed revised, lower targets it set itself.  

As it continued to struggle to attract students, staff were fired and losses piled up.

According to The Malta Independent, the company that runs the university registered accumulated losses of €14.7 million in the three years between 2018 and 2020, with tuition fees bringing in less than €250,000 every year.

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