Trump/Russia affair: the mystery ‘professor’ and 37,000 company shares

This is one in a series of articles about the Trump-Russia affair and the characters involved.

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Joseph Mifsud: fingers in many pies

Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese “professor” who liaised between the Russians and Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, had fingers in many pies — so many that it’s difficult to be sure what his real job was.

When he went into hiding earlier this month, Mifsud was a “professorial teaching fellow” (whatever that means) at the University of Stirling, had a vaguely-defined role at Link Campus University in Italy and was a “board adviser” at the London Centre of International Law and Practice Limited (LCILP).

According to a document released by the US Department of Justice, Mifsud and Papadopoulos first came into contact during a three-month period early in 2016 when Papadopoulos was also working at LCILP.

In addition, Mifsud was director of the London Academy of Diplomacy for several years before it was quietly shut down in 2016, in circumstances which have yet to be explained.

Now, however, yet another of his many roles has come to light. In 2013, Mifsud was reported to be working as “consultant” for a company called
INTO University Partnerships. But his involvement with INTO may go further than that: company records currently show someone named “J Mifsud” as owning 37,000 shares in the business [see “confirmation statement”, 27 July 2017].

Based in the British seaside resort of Brighton, INTO has been described by the Financial Times as “a niche UK education company” which makes its money by establishing links with universities:

“Into aims to partner with universities, attract and prepare foreign students for their degree courses, and even build new campus facilities.

“For the universities, the Into model can reduce the financial risk of investing in new buildings, and make it easier to attract lucrative students from new markets.”

In 2013 a private equity deal valued the business at more than £200 million, but not everyone is enthusiastic about its activities. According to the Independent, INTO is “opposed by many lecturers”.

Mifsud’s first known involvement with INTO was in February 2013 when he popped up in Malta acting as a consultant for the company.

Mifsud met the Maltese opposition leader, Joseph Muscat, offering to set up new facilities which would attract 3,000 students to study in the country. Muscat was quoted at the time as saying his party was determined to give more choice to students at tertiary level.

This happened just a couple of weeks before a general election in Malta and some viewed INTO’s intervention as a ploy to help Muscat’s Labour party win — which it did.

The first British university to tie up with INTO was the University of East Anglia (UEA), around 2005–2006. Together they developed UEA’s satellite campus in central London which housed the London Academy of Diplomacy from 2010 onwards.

In January 2014, however, UEA announced that it would “cease offering degree courses in London from September 2014 and focus on continued delivery of the UK’s number one student experience at its main Norwich campus”.

This did not yet signal the end for the London Academy of Diplomacy, though. Three months later, Stirling University announced that it was launching a “major internationalisation partnership” with INTO and would be stepping into UEA’s shoes. The press release said:

“The London centre will offer a range of Master’s degrees in Business and Management, Finance and TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) in addition to a wide range of English Language courses. The London centre will also provide validation services for Master’s degrees offered by the London Academy of Diplomacy.”

Shortly after Stirling University took over responsibility for the diplomatic academy Joseph Mifsud surfaced as its new director.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.

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