Malta's national educational authority is not in a position to confirm the number of students enlisted at the American University of Malta.

A spokesman for the National Commission for Further and Higher Education told Times of Malta that it could not confirm that fewer than 15 students are currently attending courses offered by the AUM.

According to the NCFHE, whose members are appointed by the Prime Minister, the number of students at the AUM is “secret and confidential between the licensee and the Commission”.

The NCFHE was the body which awarded Jordan's Sadeen Investments Ltd a licence to open a new private university in Malta.

Although licence provisos require the AUM to give details about students and faculty to the NCFHE, the spokesman said that the law, enacted through a legal notice, obliged the Commission “to treat such information about licensed providers in strict confidence”.

Meanwhile, the AUM, which started its first academic year in September, is still keeping information about the number of students attending lectures at its Cospicua campus under wraps.

Project aimed at setting up a 4,000-student strong private university

Three months ago, Provost John Ryder had told the Times of Malta that all data about the AUM’s student body was about to be published in detail on the university’s website.

Months later, no such data has been published. Asked yesterday whether the AUM was in a position to give this newspaper the required information, Prof. John Ryder did not reply.

READ: AUM firing staff after failing to attract students

The Sunday Times of Malta has reported that the AUM project – aimed at setting up a 4,000-student strong private university on the island – had started its first academic year on a wrong footing as it hadn’t managed to attract any significant number of students.

Education industry sources had told this newspaper that the number of students which enrolled in September was just 15, and most of them were there after obtaining scholarships offered by the Sadeen Group.

The sources said that some of the students have since dropped out and it is not yet known whether the university is continuing to offer all its courses – four in total.

According to announcements made in 2015, when Sadeen’s investment was announced by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, AUM was expected to open its doors to at least 300 students during its first academic year.

The controversial project, described by Dr Muscat as “an economic boost to the south”, had ruffled many features not only due to the way it was negotiated between the government and the Jordanian construction magnates but also because of a decision to allocate a large parcel of ODZ land in Żonqor Point, Marsascala, to the group.

The group says it will turn the Żonqor Point land into a fully-fledged campus and sleeping quarters for foreign paying students.

Following news of the low student admissions registered, Dr Muscat had said that the American University of Malta will not start building a new campus at Żonqor before the current Cospicua site – with a capacity of hosting some 500 students – is fully occupied.

Despite Dr Muscat’s declaration, the Sadeen Group is still carrying on with its application at the Planning Authority to develop the 40,000-square metre site.

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