Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bogus Universities? (I)

One of the topics which have cropped up recently is the issue of "bogus universities", where many Malaysians apparently obtain their unaccredited and dodgy diploma and degree "qualifications". I've been planning to blog on this topic, and it has taken a while because the issue required a certain level of research. Not to mention the fact that the issue has many angles to which it could be tackled.

I'll start off which an interesting one, which was just highlighted in Jeff Ooi's Screenshots as well as Aisehman. There's also an interview with him by the Sun available here.

UMNO has recently set up a new political organisation, UMNO Putera for boys aged 18-25. The UMNO Youth chief, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has appointed 37 year old Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim as the head of UMNO Putera.

Datuk Abdul Azeez has an apparently fairly impressive resume. While he education did not extend beyond his SPM initially - he became a self-made millionaire when he was 21, within 3 years after starting his second-hand car sales business. He did however obtain his Masters degree in Business Management and Administration from a Preston University in Wyoming. I would be very impressed if not for the fact that there is clearly controversy as to the manner in which his Masters degree was obtained.

The state of Oregon in the United States, being well aware of the latest developments in dodgy degrees has this to say about Preston University (which by the way, has branches in Wyoming, Pakistan, Dubai and Netherlands), in their list of unaccredited universities:

[The Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA)] has no evidence that this is an accredited or otherwise acceptable provider of postsecondary education meeting Oregon standards. Recently added an operation in the Netherlands called Universiteit Preston Russel Hobbes. Note: undergoing ODA review at the school's request, summer 2005.
The website has further added that:

Degrees from all of these suppliers are invalid for use in state or licensed
employment in Oregon and
the use of such degrees can result in criminal
prosecution or civil penalties
depending on the circumstances of the
use. In addition, it is illegal to use such degrees or credentials for any
purpose unless the user discloses in writing to all persons to whom the degrees
is presented that the supplier is unaccredited and unapproved by ODA.
Preston University is similarly listed as unaccredited in the state of Michigan's list of unacceptable degree suppliers.

In fact, even Pakistan has classified Preston University as a diploma mill and “classified all 15 Preston campuses in that country as ‘illegally operating'". Read blog article by an English professor, Margaret Soltan dated May this year. Read also an article in Chowk (a South Asian socio-political commentary forum) entitled "Fake degrees for the big boys in Pakistan".

Preston University was also cited as an example in the report by The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "States Struggle to Regulate Online Colleges that Lack Accredition":

Even in states that have tried to regulate the unaccredited institutions, they continue to thrive. In sparsely populated Wyoming, for example, at least four such colleges have a presence, and a fifth, Rushmore University, is considering moving its office there from South Dakota. But Wyoming students are not flocking to the universities, which instead rely heavily on students from the Middle East and developing countries.

Preston University, for example, claims to have 30 "affiliated" campuses in 19 countries, and virtually all of its students are abroad. Abdul Basit, the university's president, is a native of Pakistan who rarely visits the university building at the airport in Cheyenne.

According to Jerry P. Haenisch, who is chancellor and chief executive officer of Preston, the university has about 8,000 students, the bulk of whom are in Pakistan.

Mr. Haenisch says that half of the university's operating income comes from nine campuses in Pakistan. The rest comes from other campuses worldwide and from the university's distance-learning program, which enrolls about 300 students.

Students and faculty members exchange exams and assignments through express mail, Mr. Haenisch says. The tuition for distance-learning students ranges from $4,950 for an associate degree to as much as $9,950 for a bachelor's degree. He says faculty members are paid $100 to create a course syllabus, $50 to grade an exam, $250 to evaluate a masters' thesis, and $1,250 to supervise a candidate for a doctorate.
Interestingly, in Preston is pretty good at entertaining politicians (which in itself may be a pretty good lesson!) to support its dubious causes as reported in the MSNBC earlier this year:

...state lawmakers [of Wyoming] abandoned a bill that would have required private schools to have proper accreditation by 2010. That was after two state senators were guests of Cheyenne-based Preston University on an expenses-paid trip to Preston campuses in Pakistan and Dubai.
Hence we can only conclude that Datuk Abdul Azeez enrolled for the program with "one of the oldest Universities" in the United States with the intention of obtaining an easy degree "qualification", or alternatively, he was an innocent victim of an unethical marketing campaign by these dubious institutions. Make your own judgement. Either way, it's time for Datuk Abdul Azeez to stop being too proud of his Masters degree credentials - and instead use his lesson and political connections to strengthen the accredition policy of foreign universities in Malaysia.

To obtain the complete list of accredited institutions recognised by the United States accrediting organisations, check out the Council of Higher Education Accreditation website. Please do note that a university that is accredited is NOT a recognition of its quality. It is however, at least better than an unaccredited 'institution'.


Anonymous said...

Jeff Leong's Screenshots

erh.... jeffooi-lah! unless you know something we don't

Golf Afflicted said...

ooopss... blunder... updated and edited :)

Anonymous said...

Read this, it means the singer Fazley also using same funny reading a report from BBC investigation ...