Updated, adds link to presentation
The government and a Jordanian investor have signed the heads of agreement for the setting up of the American University of Malta.
The agreement was signed at the Auberge de Castille by Economic Services Minister Chris Cardona and investor Hani Saleh, who has teamed up with De Paul University of Chicago.
A stretch of land near Marsascala has been earmarked for the €115 million campus for 4,000 students, but Mr Saleh has requested temporary use of sections of SmartCity until the campus is built, in about two years' time. During a presentation about the project, it was said that the location of the university will be in the south, but a final decision has not been taken on the actual site.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Education Minister Evarist Bartolo were among those present for the signing ceremony.
Mr Saleh, chairman of the Sadeen Group, said this would be an exciting and landmark educational project. The idea of an American University outside the US had proven to be very successful and rewarding, he said.
The American University of Malta would have an annual intake of 1,000 students from all corners of the world.
The campus would feature lecture halls, labs, workshops and research and development facilities for five colleges.
“It will be a state of the art complex, built with great respect towards the local environment,” he said.
Mr Saleh said it was expected that the first students would be received in September 2016, temporarily in SmartCity.
Malta, he said ‘ticked all the right boxes’ as the ideal location for the university, he said.
He underlined the economic benefits for Malta, including the direct creation of 400 jobs and many indirect benefits. Scholarships would be provided for Maltese students.
UNIVERSITY TO PARTLY FUND NATURAL PARK
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat revealed that the new university will partly fund the natural park which the government is planning to set up from the foreshore to the site earmarked for the university in Marsascala, an area of some 500 tumoli of land.
He said an interesting proposal which the government is considering is to incorporate Fort San Leonardo into the campus, as long as the site was rehabilitated and open to the public.
He said he hoped the new project would lead to pressure on the owners of the Jerma site to rehabilitate or redevelop the site.
See presentation at http://we.tl/YqHzrR6v40
Labour MP Marlene Farrugia, who was elected from the south, said in a comment on this portal that she only got to know what was being concluded a few days ago.
“At the time it sounded as a fait accompli and I was livid. Then I witnessed a genuine consultation procedure. It felt as if there was a chance that common sense would prevail.
“Now it seems that the development, land devouring lobby has the upper hand again. Still I am hoping that our PM finds the strength to stand up to them and steer this project in the right direction, the direction that sustains the people's all round well- being.”
She said it was not acceptable to trick the people into thinking they were getting something while they were being blatantly begrudged the priceless natural heritage they were currently enjoying freely and completely.
NGOs welcome investment but say it should not be on ODZ land
NGOs Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Ramblers Association, Din l-Art Helwa, NatureTrust Malta, Birdlife, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement and Greenhouse welcomed the investment but said that locating the campus on ODZ land, occupying one per cent of Malta’s total arable land was an unsustainable start for a positive project, not suited to such a prestigious university.
Malta, they said, could not afford to lose any more of its open spaces which would impact the long-term social and physical well-being of this country.
“Seriously reducing Malta's scarce natural resource and depriving some farmers of their livelihood from agricultural land does create social injustice. As a university that prides itself on having more than 45 specialised centers and institutes focused on addressing social justice issues, DePaul University must surely not want to be associated with such a serious national injustice,” they said.
The NGOs urged DePaul University and the local authorities to consider the many historic forts in the Kalkara-Zonqor area, many dating back centuries. Although in handing heritage structures to a foreign entity, access must be ensured for the Maltese, it was far better to restore and reuse these places rather than allow them to disintegrate for lack of a use.
A 'not so pristine site' should be found if possible - MDA
The Malta Developers Association also agreed that, if possible, a site that was not so pristine should be found, although this was not easy.
On the other hand, it said that if the project was executed on undeveloped land, attention should be paid for the project to respect the skyline of the vicinity and the topography of the terrain, and for high buildings to be avoided.