Saturday, January 24, 2009

Professor Baron Knowth, the Honourary Chancellor of the Irish International University

Professor Baron Knowth, the Honourary Chancellor of the Irish International University, made the sensational admission to the BBC in an undercover operation. ?I am white, they appreciate somebody from the UK giving them degrees?, the chancellor added. The University has a strange connection to Oxford and Cambridge, where it holds graduation ceremonies. But this association is strategic than academic. Chancellor Knowth was unequivocal: ?if you mention Oxford, Cambridge, the whole world thinks it must be a good university.? And because fake begets fake, it turns out that the honourary chancellor?s name is fake; he is Jeffrey Wooller, a chartered accountant who owns a ?1.2 Million mansion in Kensington, one of London?s expensive addresses, but prefers to live in Monaco on a self-imposed tax exile. He admits that he bought his Baron title. Of course, his professorship had been awarded him by the Irish International University. The University?s Vice-Chancellor and Executive President, Sir Professor Hardeep Singh Sandhu, is no academic; he is a Malaysian businessman whose doctorate had been thrust on him by another bogus university in the Caribbean. So, the supposedly accredited institution of higher learning works like a business enterprise rather than a university. Their students are commodities who are passed through a degree mill like sausages and awarded certificates after paying several thousands of Pounds. But Professor Knowth insists that ?the students are happy.?

When an entry clearance officer at the British Embassy in Ghana asked me to describe the geographical location of Keele University, one of Britain?s prestigious universities in the county of Staffordshire, I deemed the question the British version of the Spanish inquisition. How would I know what Staffordshire looks like when I was hearing it for the first time? ?I would ask the travel advisors at the Heathrow airport to direct me where to go? I submitted. ?The university has arranged to pick us up any way?, followed the rehearsed sequel. Then I thought quickly before he would ask: ?If they don?t turn up, I would get a train and follow the directions on the map they have given me.? It was one of the few times in my adult life that I thought I had done some intelligent thinking. But that intelligent answer spelt my visa doom. The officer quizzed: ?So you have a map already, then tell me how you would get to Keele.? If I couldn?t tell how to get to Yendi from Axim, I would be a gem to dignify that very British question with an answer cooked from the Graduate Hostel of University of Ghana, where I was still ?perching? after completing a postgraduate course at the School of Communication Studies.

The import of the British immigration officer?s question was that not every university has a location. And sometimes, those that claim to have a location turn out to be located nowhere on the globe. The Irish International University, which boasts of 40 campuses in the UK, and another 40 around the world, does not have a presence at its main campus. When the BBC traced an address in Dublin given on the university?s website, what they found was a mailbox. If that sounds like a university located in the air, then the body that gave it its accreditation, the Quality Assurance Commission QAC, is an entity in ?even space?, more laughable than Kwame Bampoe?s Interplast radio commercial. There is indeed no such accreditation body as the QAC in Britain; the institution that controls such issues in the UK is called the Quality Assurance Agency of Higher Learning. Even if the QAC was a one room company with skeletal staff, it would have fallen into a well-known pattern, but at least it would go a length or two in assuaging victims of the pain of the scam. The QAC, it was found, was non-existent; instead a private company owned by the Vice-Chancellor of the university works in its place. Indeed, an educational website that monitors bogus universities:, states that the Irish government has requested that Malaysia, where the Irish International University has a strong presence, should close it down on the grounds that it is neither Irish nor a university. The website also states that the university has obtained a license in a Swiss canton, but it is not a Swiss university. The site lists thousands of other unaccredited colleges that are trading in university degrees and diplomas.

When one of the operators of the many bogus colleges affiliated to the Irish International University was jailed in London last week, the plight of the international student in the western countries was highlighted. Almost all students at the Irish International University are Asians and Africans, who struggle to work to pay thousands in tuition fees to be rewarded with a piece of paper. Often they fall decidedly for the scams played by bogus colleges because they cannot afford the exorbitant fees charged by the accredited learning institutions. Other times, they are conned by learning institutions who exploit the desperation of unsuspecting immigrants who necessarily have to study their way through the hustle and bustle of life in the cold, to renew their student visas. The field of the degree often does not count very much; what matters is the business of learning, which bogus colleges specialize in. They are able to manufacture attendance sheets, backdate the starting date of a course or postpone it to address an essential immigration void. Even though very few of these colleges offer courses in printing, most of them produce certificates faster than the Oxford University Press. They are churned out from small office printers, but they come complete with an official seal and other copyright features. And unlike Legon where a degree once issued cannot be replaced when lost, these bogus universities are kind enough to institute a buy-one-get-one-free policy.

It is not always the case that dodgy universities attract dodgy people, but it is always the case that degree-hungry people are those who fall victim. There are probably many Masters degree holders cleaning toilets in the western world than there are first degree graduates working in offices as administrative managers, even though they manage nothing really. How to identify the former group is by their colour. Earlier this week, there was a report that African immigrants, not African-Americans, have higher educational attainments than any other immigrant group in US. In fact, 48.9% of African immigrants hold a recognised college diploma. They have a reasonable representation in George Bush?s Yale, Yaa Ofori-Atta?s Columbia, Kwesi Botchwey?s Harvard, Penn, Duke, Berkeley and Princeton, where this author was educated (I wish). African immigrants have better qualifications than their Asian counterparts; almost double the rate of white Americans, and four times the rate of African Americans-the descendants of slaves. In the UK and other parts of the West, the situation will not be any different.

The acquisition of a degree is not as important as what you do with it. There are very few Chinese and Indian cleaners in the West, because most of them return to their home countries to help in their development. These days, I don?t pause to read the letters after people?s names, because there are professors who profess nothing. A three year traditional university degree can be done online in a year. It is even possible to get admission onto a PhD course without submitting a proposal. You are a Masters degree holder if you can complete four modules and borrow the dissertation of a friend from the university next door. The only hard work you need to do is change his name and substitute the names in the acknowledgment. You can afford to change nothing because it will not be marked anyway. It is also possible to get a degree as a Minister of Religion by completing a 4-6 week course online. After a short rehearsed prayer for forgiveness, you are free to go preaching to win souls for the expansion of the Kingdom. Sometimes, you wonder if God is computer literate. Even if he was, he wouldn?t visit dodgy websites.

At what price have we attained these powerful academic laurels? If they haven?t mattered much in our development as a continent, then perhaps, we should do a lot more crying than studying. A white British charity worker described the African problem as a riddle clothed in mystery and wound up in a paradox. Well, she didn?t couch it in those exact words, but the situation in Kenya is nothing but a paradox. Election thief President Kikaki is a graduate of the prestigious London School of Economics. Curiously uncompromising Raila Odinga, holds an MSc from Otto von Guericke Technical University, a very good German university renowned for training most of Germany?s top mechanical engineers. Too many degrees haven?t helped at the top, but at least, degrees make sense than baptism certificates. Nigeria has many universities than nearly every country in West Africa, and in the UK, Nigerian immigrants have higher academic qualifications than any other African immigrant group. Yet, until last year when President Y?Adua, who holds a Masters in Chemistry was elected, the populous African country had not had the privilege, and in our case, the misfortune of being ruled by a degree holder. Well, the President of Iran, Mamoud Ahmedinejad, has a PhD in traffic management, but Iran?s roads are congested most of the time.

Of course, it is not degrees that have developed the countries of the West. These days, degrees don?t mean much. Any buffoon can buy a degree from a college. And because there are too many dodgy ones on the market, those with hard-earned genuine degrees are not altogether spared the shame and the ignominy that bogus qualifications bring. The Irish International University had awarded honourary doctorate degrees to the Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen and Tan Sri Lamin Haji Mohd Yunus, a noble man who was recently voted to the UN Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Fazley, a prominent Malaysian musician and Irfan Khairi, a millionaire who specializes in how to make money online, all have honourary degrees from the university. It is surprising that Khairi could not check the accreditation status of the university that awarded him his degree.

Well, perhaps Khairi would have been duped all the same if he had crosschecked every information about the Irish International University on the internet. Websites are proving to be only as reliable as pregnant prostitutes. Chancellor Knowth tells us: ?when you look at the website, it?s a figment of someone?s imagination. Someone?s dreamt up what a university should look like, and that?s what is on the website.? The university has adjusted its website after the BBC investigation, but it is still operational. Still, websites are useful. You can check the genuine accreditation of a university before you enroll. In the UK, go to

Canada: www.cicic/ca/en/page.asp?sortcode=2.20

USA: /

Australia: www.higheredconsulting.comau/links.html


Post a Comment