Fabian Demicoli

The American University of Malta Zonqor Point Project discussed at MCESD – GRTU all in favour of investment, solutions must be found not to have it in ODZ

An MCESD meeting held last Monday 1stJune discussing the American University of Malta project was addressed by Education Minister Evarist Bartolo, Economy Minister Dr Chris Cardona and Environment Minister Leo Brincat.

Minister Bartolo introduced the project as reflecting government’s economic vision to strengthen the economy and internationalise the higher education sector. Having 17% of all students based in Malta following private tuition and another unaccounted number of Maltese students following studies overseas, shows that there is potential in this market both for Maltese as well as to attract more foreign students to our islands. Minister Bartolo reacted to the three main concerns raised from an education point of view, namely that due to this project: education quality standards are going to be lowered to accommodate the investors; there is not going to be an element of research as is required of an university; and that the recent changes in the legislation where made to allow government to grant education licenses directly without the necessary requirements and processes. Minister Bartolo insisted that there is in fact going to be a strong element of research at the AUOM and that the amendments presented though a recent legal notice give further powers to the National   —>> P. 3 << P . 1—Commission for Further and Higher Education and not the government. He explained that the AUOM will be focusing on Engineering, Communications, IT and Medical Science.

Economy Minister Chris Cardona emphasised that studies show that the average income of families in the South Region of Malta is 11% lower when compared to other regions. It is expected that this project builds on the government’s economic vision and has a substantial income on Malta, particularly the South with an estimated EUR 115 million investment across three years bringing to Malta around 4000 foreign students raising the profile of our higher education provision. These students are expected to pay around EUR 12.5 million in tuition fees and spend EUR 1.8 million on property rental. Studies based on the UK show that foreign student influx generates further tourism income brought by family visits whilst the students are expected to spend around EUR 15,000 per year. The same studies show that every EUR 1.00 spent on tertiary education repays the economy with EUR 2.50.

Minister Leo Brincat focused on the broadening of the notion of sustainable development which is based on economic, social, environmental and even cultural developments and not tied on environment on its own without considering the others, or vice versa.

GRTU believes that any for of foreign investment should be welcomed and supported as this brings in economic benefits to all and therefore strongly welcomes such as project which is expected to generate business. On the other hand GRTU sees that such development (and any other) on ODZ should not be the solution. Government has ample capacity to find another solution which does not affect ODZ.

 

 

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