It is business as usual for the American University of Malta, an AUM spokesman said in the wake of Simon Busuttil’s pledge last week to negotiate an alternative to the Żonqor campus when he is prime minister.

The Opposition leader made the declaration last Saturday when unveiling the Nationalist Party’s environment policy. The PN and environmental groups had protested the use of land in an outside development zone at Żonqor, Marsascala, for the construction of the university campus.

The AUM was granted land concessions to build campuses in Cospicua and Marsascala by a parliamentary resolution, approved after a marathon all-night session in December 2015.

Asked for a reaction to Dr Busuttil’s pledge, AUM Provost John Ryder said the university was “proceeding as planned” with its proposals for the Żonqor campus.

International searches are under way for more than 20 positions, so you can imagine that things move a bit slowly

“There have not been any discussions with anyone to the contrary as far as I know,” he said, referring this newspaper to the Sadeen Group on questions about the status of the Żonqor campus planning application.

Sadeen is the Jordanian company behind the AUM. It was granted a licence to establish a university last summer by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education.

Work on the Cospicua campus at Dock One is progressing well, but no planning application for the larger campus in Marsascala has been filed. No reply was forthcoming from Sadeen when asked about the Żonqor application.

The private university is expected to open its doors for students this August, with Dr Ryder saying that the recruitment of administrators and faculty was under way.

“There are more than 20 separate positions for which international searches are under way, so you can imagine that things move a bit slowly. Nevertheless, some positions have been filled, and additional colleagues begin full time in the near future.”

Dr Ryder said student recruitment was planned to start “in earnest” in February. Students will initially use the Cospicua campus.

In an interview with The Sunday Times of Malta last September, Dr Ryder said the AUM expected to enrol 330 students in its courses for the first year. He said lectures would be held in the British building at Dock One and would start on August 28, 2017.

kurt.sansone@timesofmalta.com

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