The author – Chung, Thien Shiong, who is a resident of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, asked us to report his story. The article was originally published on The Star on July 3, 2018. The author would like to use his story to warn international students of degree mills. He regrets to spend his hard-earned savings on a fake degree.
Exposing Bogus Degree Mills
NOWADAYS, the recruitment advertisements of businesses, whether large conglomerates or small and medium enterprises, often specify that the “candidate should be a degree holder, preferably a masters degree, with relevant working experience”. Thus, working adults who aspire to be in such jobs would invest in themselves by enrolling for degree courses or postgraduate programmes which are plentiful in Malaysia.
One can opt for “blended learning, online learning, distance learning” and many more with both local universities or those accredited with foreign universities. Potential students are promised part-time programmes that are flexible; they can study and attend courses during the weekends, and would graduate within 18 months!
In their pursuit of that higher educational qualification, they often forget the maxim caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
In my case, I sacrificed family time (weekdays and weekends) and spent my hard-earned savings on tuition in pursuit of that dream. But all have been in vain.
There are also bogus universities that churn out diplomas, degrees and all sorts of postgraduate course accreditation as long as you pay for them.
If I could, I would turn back the clock!
Eighteen months ago, I signed up for an MBA course with a local service provider tied up with a foreign university in the United States (or so I thought). I diligently attended all the courses and completed all the assignments on time. I even arranged to enroll for a doctoral study in China with the good grades that I achieved.
In December 2017, my cherished dream of being conferred the MBA degree was shattered! The local service provider told me the foreign university’s president who was supposed to attend the convocation had forgotten to bring along my certificate which they promised to hand over to me in December 2017.
I was astounded but I could only do what a reasonable person would do in such circumstances – follow up unceasingly with the local service provider and its business development director and the said president of the university until I finally received the certificate.
What’s worse is the certificate looked fake and was indeed fake, as I found out after I took pains to verify its authenticity! Not only did it not bear the university’s seal, it also was not listed in the university’s records.
In my desperate situation, I reached out to the chief of the Education USA Advising Centre who informed me about the accreditation of colleges in the US, how to detect a diploma mill and how a bogus university uses “wordplay” to confuse students.
I did some further investigations on the modus operandi of the local service provider and its US university partner. I also approached officers from the Higher Education Ministry to report the incident. They have done the interviews and advised accordingly.
I am writing to share my experience with the hope that others who plan to invest in higher education could learn from my “carelessness” and naivete and avoid being cheated!
In 2005, there was an article on the actions taken by the Malaysian government on bogus universities. One of the institutions mentioned in the article was this bogus US university that I signed up with. If this university was in the blacklist back then, how was it able to continue to prey upon unsuspecting students till 2017!
In the course of my investigations on bogus colleges and universities, I have also found out that:
1. In 2010, the US-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) had blacklisted 855 universities in the US alone;
2. Local service providers often claim that the certificate issued by them and their foreign university partner is legitimate but not recognized by the Malaysian government; and
3. Vague descriptions like “We are a degree-granting institution”, “We are internationally attested”, “We are recognized/ accredited as a trusted institution” is among the catchphrases used to confuse international students.
I would appreciate if our new government could seriously look into these fly-by-night higher learning service providers! Given the opportunity, I would like to share the outcome of my investigations with the relevant authorities.
CHUNG THIEN SHIONG
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