The American University of Malta is again having problems attracting foreign students, failing to reach targets despite projections being revised downwards after last year’s dismal results, the Times of Malta learnt.

Sources close to the AUM’s Cospicua campus said that when the second academic year opened earlier this week, the number of students was still “very low”.

“So far, despite a bigger marketing campaign for new recruits by the university’s administration, only a few students were in classes,” the sources said.

They said fewer than 70 students had applied by the time the deadline expired and there were problems with most, since their level of English was lower than that required by the National Commission for Higher and Further Education, the Maltese regulator.

The Times of Malta was told that most of this year’s applicants came from African countries, mainly Ghana.

After failing to meet its 300-student target last year, with only a handful attending courses, the AUM’s administrators aimed to attract 150 this year.

Efforts to establish how many students had started courses this year proved futile, with a spokesman declining to give any information. He would only say, “enrolment ends in October and new international students are due to begin arriving this week”.

Only a few students were in classes

He said applications had been received from students hailing from 26 countries.

According to the AUM’s academic calendar, placement tests were carried out earlier this month.

READ: AUM hits out at its critics

In a bid to address the English language problem, the university has introduced courses in ‘English for academic purposes’ while offering discounts in tuition for those opting for them.

The AUM spokesman said one graduate and seven undergraduate programmes were being offered, and it was awaiting the green light from the regulator for one new graduate and three new undergraduate programmes.

The controversial university project, owned by Jordanian construction magnates Sadeen Group, was catapulted into the news in 2015 when the government concluded a deal to allocate a large tract of land to the group at an unspoilt location in Marsascala known as Żonqor Point.

Following an uproar, the government decided to reduce the development of the public land footprint of the Marsascala site and gave the Sadeen Group a building next to Dock 1 in Cospicua to be turned into a campus.

The building is “nearing completion”, according to the AUM spokesman.

Eyebrows rose recently when signs reading ‘Sadeen Building’ were erected on the historic edifice. The AUM insisted that the aim was still to use the building as a campus and “nothing has changed but the name”.

Originally, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the university would open its doors in September 2016 with more than 300 students in the first year. However, the opening was delayed by a year and only a handful of students were attracted in the first academic year.

The AUM also scaled back its operations, dismissing all its faculty just a few days before their six-month probation was up. According to the latest information on the AUM website, there are seven academics employed at the university, including the provost.

The Żonqor Point building, which was to include dormitories for the 4,600 students intended to attend the AUM after a decade, has been put on hold until the Cospicua campus reaches its full potential.

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