Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Upsurge In Non Accredited Institutions Awarding Degrees

It is critical, that people be taught the culture of not just acquiring knowledge, but also adding to it. The system must teach people the rigours of academic work and intellectual creativity. One of the best systems for instilling this value in people, is education. It is the fundamental launch pad for the next generation of deep thinkers and creators. That is why it is upsetting that in-depth validation of knowledge and intellectual accomplishment is being cheapened these days, with a sudden influx of non-existent institutions one can simply buy certificates from. In a recent paper titled, ‘the Accreditation Challenges in Transnational Education Ecology, the Ghanaian Experience,’ the researchers from the Valdosta State University in the US identified a number of Ghanaians who have received fake degrees from unaccredited institutions. In the USA, they are popularly known as “Diploma Mills,” which is quite an appropriate name, as they just churn degrees on a virtual assembly line. With law enforcement having done quite extensive work to immobilise such institutions, attention has been switched to developing markets with weak law enforcement and naivety, mixed with a dose of titular obsession. Their target victims are mainly people with public access, fame and/or accomplished in a particular field: Politicians, Journalists, Pastors, Ministers, Entrepreneurs and Business People among others.

In fact, this whole “industry” began years before this time, with the pastors. They were the first group of people to clamour after theological qualifications that required minimal or no course work and research to graduate. This happened mainly through correspondence studies. These scam artists understand the lure of the Ghanaian mentality. The obsession with titles. They also know that even after a Ghanaian has made a fortune of hundreds of millions of Cedis and employed hundreds of people, he cannot self-actualize until he finds and displays “doctor” before his name. They know his accomplishments do not bring him the self-perceived recognition he thinks he deserves, so they will make him pay for one. This is a multi-billion dollar industry selling fake degrees to naive persons all over the world. A number of such institutions are operating in Ghana, with fake faculty whose only qualifications are the ones from the same “university”. There are also the ones from random individuals operating from their bedrooms in a corner of the world. Those ones do not care about trying to look legit by renting the British Council Hall in Accra for an honorary doctoral awarding ceremony. They will only communicate via snail mail.

Victims of these systems can be seen around all the time. They feature prominently in the news on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Ironically, they use these fake degrees to create further public deceit. They are mostly the loudest people. One might think that coming to the knowledge that they carry a fake degree title will “humble” them. Enquiries revealed that with 499 dollars, one could have a fake honorary doctoral degree within a fortnight. How anyone will take this serious, is baffling. Here are a few tips to spot these fake institutions from afar. The standard line reads “We are accredited by institution A, B and C, or we have almost completed accreditation process with our national accreditation authorities.” Beware of universities that offer you a degree based on your work experience only. Some will simply ask you to add a recommendation letter from your colleague as evidence of your “good works.” They will throw in a bit of religious feel-good words for effect. Beware of institutions that offer to fly down to your country to confer certificates and titles on you, at a private ceremony. They will usually rent a hotel conference room or a seemingly respectable venue like the British Council Hall, College of Physicians and Surgeons or a venue on a real university campus.

In order to create familiarity without attracting a lawsuit, fake institutions or diploma mills tend to create names similar to real universities. In view of the growing concerns, the authorities, especially the National Accreditation Board, with the support of the law enforcement agencies must clamp down on such institutions to save the nation.

BY JOJO CHARTEI QUANSAH, A SOCIAL COMMENTATOR

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