AUM Rector says original targets were not realistic but is confident for the future
Two months after the American University of Malta began its first semester, the Rector, Prof John Ryder has said that the original targets for the initial student intake were not realistic. However, he said he is confident that the University would continue to grow both in the number of students as well as the number of courses. In an interview with tvm.com.mt he also spoke about the campus which is planned to be built at Zonqor.
The AUM has become a target of criticism because of the small number of students, 23 in all, which it has managed to attract in its first semester.
Prof Ryder said that, “first we targeted 300… then gradually we realised this was unrealistic. So we started to scale back the targets. Because beginning a university is a difficult process and we were too optimistic than we should have been in that regard”.
In fact, 104 students from 21 different countries had applied, out of which the University accepted 75. However, because there was a problem with the issuing of visas and other problems and reasons, only one third of them were able to start the academic year. These students are now attending an average of 17 hours of lessons a week with lectures which Prof Ryder insists are among the best in their field.
With a promotional campaign throughout Europe, Asia and even Africa, Prof Ryder is confident that in January, more students will have enrolled. However, what reasons can a new institution, which has never granted any degrees, use to promote itself? “A lot of reasons we can emphasise when talking to prospective students, first of them is quality of education” said Prof. Ryder.
The AUM is accredited to offer six courses, but this year only four were opened. Apart from the two courses of study which were not opened, the National Commission for Advanced and Higher Education has already accredited other courses including a BA in Graphic Design and Animation and a B.SC. in Business Finance. Apart from this, the University has also submitted for accreditation a course in Oriental Cultures and Languages, and another course in Electronic Communications Engineering.
The relationship which AUM has with DePaul University in the US, which provided the curriculum for the first courses, has ended because, according to Prof Ryder, the contract has expired. Instead the AUM is building a relationship with two other American institutions. Representatives from Clemson University are ensuring the quality of the courses and preparing reports which will eventually be handed over to the Maltese educational authorities. The relationship with the University of Arizona has more to do with the courses themselves. “The idea would be that a student can enter one of those degree programmes here and by the time a student finishes a few years later he would receive two bachelor degrees, one from AUM and one from the University of Arizona”.
Referring to the declaration by the Education Minister Evarist Bartolo to tvm.com.mt that work on the Zonqor campus should not start before the Cospicua campus is full, Prof Ryder said that every decision should be taken according to the exigencies of the University.
“I think works over there, building, should start when we are legally entitled to do so and second if the judgement is made by those doing the investment… thinking several years out… when it needs to start.. it is going to take a few years even once construction starts”, said Prof Ryder.
Meanwhile, work on the Cospicua campus is progressing at a fast space. The building known as ‘tal-Ingliżi’ has been restored and the two additional floors are expected to be ready by February. For the second building there are still several factors to be considered because of the need for underground parking and the archeological remains which have been found there. It is estimated that these two buildings will be able to accommodate 2,000 students.