Updated | Education Minister says foreign universities’ identity to remain classified

Swiss-owned European Graduate School will offer an MA and a PhD in Philosophy, Art and Social Thought in VAlletta as from next year.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo
Education Minister Evarist Bartolo
Education Minister says foreign universities’ identity to remain classified • Video by Ray Attard

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo said that the applicants seeking accreditation to operate a university in Malta would remain classified until the university itself decided to publish the information.

“Various applicants have expressed their interest in applying for a university status in Malta, but the announcement of this application would remain confidential unless the university decided to announce the news itself,” Bartolo said.

One of the institutions has gone public about its application to offer university level courses in Malta. As from next year, the Swiss privately funded European Graduate School which will offer an MA and a PhD in Philosophy, Art and Social Thought (PAS).

In fact at the end of last month, the European Graduate School / EGS announced its new residency program in Valletta, beginning spring 2016.

In a letter published on the institution’s webpage, president Dr. Hubertus von Amelunxen wrote “it is my pleasure to announce that EGS is now an EU accredited Institution of Higher Education by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education, Malta.”

He explained that the School has developed a new intensive seminar program in Malta, adding that “this new program is only ‘new’ in that it will take place at sea level; otherwise, the core focus and content of the program remains the same as its Alpine predecessor which will continue at high altitude in beautiful Saas-Fee over the summer months.”

Bartolo pointed out that there were six applicants in all including local and foreign entities. He added that some of the applicants were foreign and already operating in Malta, but that they were seeking to achieve University status.

Asked by Malta Today whether the applicants had proposed programmes similar to the Sadeen’s Group, which is investing in the American University of Malta, Bartolo said that the applicants came from various different sectors.

“The changes made to the legal notice, were made specifically to allow organisations from different sectors, with their various needs to operate in Malta,” Bartolo added referring to the legal notice that lowered the required criteria for educational institutions to get classified as universities.

The controversial legal notice published in May allows the National Commission for Further and Higher Education (NCFHE) to invoke "national interest" as a criterion through which it can legally recognize an educational institute as a university.

The amendments also reduce the number of minimum fields, from six to four, in which programmes leading to higher diplomas, Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees are offered. They also remove the requirement for universities to have at least four fields in which doctorate programmes are offered.

Bartolo further explained that the applicants’ educational programmes were currently undergoing an evaluation process to determine whether or not the institute in question could be classified as a university.

“The evaluation will even look at whether there are teachers with the necessary qualifications available, and whether there were people with the right training to run such facilities,” he added.

During a news conference on the controversial American University of Malta, last week, the NCFHE revealed that they were currently reviewing a further two applications for universities.

While the application for the American University of Malta was submitted a few weeks before the government signed an agreement with Sadeen on 5 May, two other applications were submitted earlier, at the turn of the year.

However, citing confidentiality, the commission refused to divulge further details about who the applicants are and what kind of applications have been submitted. 

NCFHE officials present at the news conference skirted questions on the nature of the applicants and whether the commission is in negotiations with established educational institutions or construction or investment companies.  

So far, the NCFHE has accredited two well-established foreign universities, namely Barts and Middlesex University to operate in Malta.

On 5 May, the government and the group Sadeen signed a heads of agreement for the setting up of the American University of Malta. Land outside the development zone near Marsaskala, in the area known as Zonqor Point, has been earmarked for the €115 million campus for 4,000 students.

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