After a difficult start, American University is confident it will have 1000 students within two years – another building earmarked for renovation in Cospicua

The education authorities are considering an application by the American University of Malta to start offering all its courses online. Due to the impact of the pandemic, the same University is offering scholarships to people who live in Malta who wish to follow a course, without having to pay the fee.

In an interview with Television Malta, the CEO of the University, Ziya Alpay, acknowledged the difficulties they have encountered in the first years of operation however he is confident that once the pandemic is over,  they will be able to attract international students at the levels which they had prepared for. He said that within two years they will have 1000 students on the Cospicua campus and therefore it was urgent to renovate the second building and other facilities there.

The CEO was asked about the viability of the university and whether, if it fails in its educational aims, the University will be turned into a property speculation project.

Ziya Alpay said, “this place is built as a university, and will always be a university. I’m sure that in a couple of years, all the Maltese people will be proud of this place.”

He spoke frankly when asked about the future of the university which has been set up for four years and operates with a licence which includes a number of obligations. He said that right now they have 100 students – more than 90% of whom are foreign – and this month the number of graduates from this institution will come up to ten.

As with all sectors, the pandemic has disrupted the plans to develop the university with Mr Alpay saying that they are waiting for the National Commission for Higher Education to approve their online teaching programme. In these circumstances, the CEO said that not only have the fees dwindled, but they are also offering completely free courses to all those who live in Malta and who meet the criteria to enrol at the University.  These scholarships will be given to students who apply throughout this year.

TVM asked the CEO how these generous scholarships can be given when it has been reported that in the first three years of its operations it made a loss of €11 million. He replied that this was expected and is normal in a university project which requires a long-term investment.

“You cannot expect a university to make a profit in few years because at the beginning you have to make huge investments to the building, to the infrastructure, to the faculties.”

To date the University has been using what is known as the British Building in Cospicua. Asked about the objections to its plans for the building next to it, the Knights Building, which is going to be renovated, Mr Alpay said that this is part of the master plan agreed upon with the Government which is required for the University to grow.

“This building as it is can accommodate up to 1,000 students. It’s a goal that we hope to reach in two years maximum if the pandemic will let us. The renovation of the Knights building it will take maybe two years too. So when this building will be filled with students, we need to be sure that we have adequate space for the next intake. That’s why we want to start now”

Ziya Alpay completely evaded the argument that within a short time this university might be changed into residential units or a hotel. He argued that the way the site at Cospicua is designed, would make this impossible.

“This is a university, AUM it will always be there and in the Zonqor there will be a university campus. Nothing else.”

He stressed that the site at Marsascala forms part of the plans of the American University once all the targets at the Cospicua site have been met.

“In Zonqor we submitted a beautiful campus plan, we have swimming pools, we have the library, everything that the university student needs this place, yes this is beautiful, but we need additional complexes.”

He defended the need for these faculties because he said that the future of the university is not just based on online learning. The CEO said that their vision is to have the physical presence of many international students which will be of benefit for the Maltese economy as a result of consumption and the rental of properties.