The beleaguered American University of Malta significantly lowered its student intake projections for next year following clear instructions from its Jordanian investors, the Times of Malta is informed.

In the wake of the weak performance this year, when the private university started its first academic year in Malta with fewer than 15 students against the projected 330, sources said it was now aiming for an intake of 150 students in September 2018.

The decision, the sources added, had been made after the Jordanian investors – the Sadeen construction group – told the AUM administration not to aim so high, because the small number of students that had been attracted this year was damaging its international reputation and compromised the future of the project.

“AUM owner Hani Salah came to Malta several times and demanded concrete results from the university staff, particularly from the Provost, John Ryder. He was not impressed with the low number of students attracted, particularly when considering the money he is forking out,” the sources said.

Dr Muscat said the private university would open its doors with about 300 students in the first year, rising to 4,600 by its 10th academic year

This and his warning that he would not be able to sustain a haemorrhage of funds for a long time forced the university administration to revise the projections downwards in a bid to be more realistic, they added.

This newspaper has also been informed that the Jordanian investors also decided to take a more hands-on approach. Accountants and financial controllers were sent from head office to oversee the AUM’s progress at the Cospicua campus.

Jordanian Khaled El Zayyeat has been appointed executive vice president, and according to the sources, he was now calling the shots, with all major decisions being subject to his approval.

Questions sent to Prof. Ryder about the decision to halve the student intake projections and how many of the 15 students at the university were in fact paying a fee remained unanswered at the time of writing.

All students attending the Cospicua campus were given some form of grant by the Sadeen group, the Times of Malta was informed.

Dubbed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as the project that would boost the economy in the south of the island, the AUM project had to postpone its opening by a year.

Dr Muscat said the private university would open its doors with about 300 students in the first year, rising to 4,600 by its 10th academic year. However, the project has had a difficult start and those targets remain unmet.

The AUM hired about 16 faculty members for more than €100,000 each. However, the shortage of students forced it to reschedule the courses planned, and some lecturers were asked to do administrative work instead.

Under the circumstances, many members of the administration, mostly foreigners who had left their former jobs and relocated to Malta, were dismissed days before their six-month probation period was over, the sources said.

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