Watchdog tells Sadeen to drop ‘university’ logo

Sadeen Education Investment Ltd, the company representing the Sadeen Group in Malta, is to be informed by a judicial letter to cease using the logo for the ‘American University of Malta’ until it is actually licensed as a university.

Sadeen, the Jordanian construction group granted land at Zonqor Point (pictured is the artistic impression of the development) had been told to desist form using ‘university’ it its promotional material until it is licensed to do so
Sadeen, the Jordanian construction group granted land at Zonqor Point (pictured is the artistic impression of the development) had been told to desist form using ‘university’ it its promotional material until it is licensed to do so

The Jordanian construction group that has been granted land outside the development boundaries at Zonqor Point in Marsaskala for the construction of a private university campus, has been instructed by the national higher education commission (NCFHE) to desist from using ‘university’ in its promotional material until it is licensed to do so.

Sadeen Education Investment Ltd, the company representing the Sadeen Group in Malta, is to be informed by a judicial letter to cease using the logo for the ‘American University of Malta’ until it is actually licensed as a university.

The logo is still present on its website aum.edu.mt, with a logo that specifically states ‘American University of Malta’.

Hani Saleh, chairman of the Sadeen Group
Hani Saleh, chairman of the Sadeen Group

The National Commission for Further and Higher Education has only recently licensed the controversial project as a ‘higher education institution’, because of the lack of degree courses needed to put the ‘U’ in Sadeen’s logo. The university will only be licensed as such when it fulfils the required minimum degree courses.

But originally the Labour government had announced with fanfare that Sadeen would build an ‘American University of Malta’ over a campus stretching across 90,000 square metres of virgin land. The area was downscaled to 18,000 square metres and part of the proposed campus relocated to the Bormla docks after a national protest in which some 3,000 thronged the streets of Valletta.

The original logo has persisted, not least in the political jargon of its supporters, who see the project as a way of attracting paying international students to the island.

But the law governing educational licensing specifically states that “higher education institution” licensees like Sadeen Education, “shall not use the word ‘university’ in any media, advertising, published material, promotional material or in any information otherwise supplied to intending students, students, parents or the public.

“This article applies to all higher education institutions accredited by the NCFHE,” a spokesperson for the national commission said.

“In the case of Sadeen Education Investment Ltd, the NCFHE has already brought to the entity’s attention such infringement via official correspondence. The Commission will further invoke Regulation 5A of the Subsidiary Legislation which states that it shall inform the entity which committed the infringement via a judicial letter before imposing an administrative penalty upon any person or provider. Action to this effect is currently in hand.”

The name “American University of…” is best known in the cases of Beirut and Cairo, which for more than a century signified an American style of education in prestigious colleges. Sadeen is a construction firm with interests in tourism, but it has involved DePaul University of Chicago to provide curricular materials for 10-degree programmes – but not to offer degrees.

The NCFHE was put under a harsh spotlight after it fell upon it to vet Sadeen Education’s credentials and requirements to set up a private university for what was a preordained government project.

Commission chairman Martin Scicluna had to fend off criticism from the Opposition for his own defence of a controversial legal notice that relaxed the onerous conditions for educational institutions to be classified as universities, and which was published days after the government signed its agreement with Sadeen.

The rules allow the NCFHE to invoke the “national interest” as one of several criteria for the legal recognition of an educational institute as a university. The minimum fields for programmes leading to higher diplomas, Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees, were also reduced from six to four; and the requirement for universities to have at least four fields in which doctorate programmes are offered, was removed. PN MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, who shadows education, said the relaxed rules made “a mockery of the edifice of standards”.

The law was tweaked three days after a heads of agreement was signed with Sadeen, forcing education minister Evarist Bartolo to deny that the rules were introduced to appease the Jordanians.

Sadeen Education eventually had to undergo a rigorous and independent quality-screening test.

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