MPs with fake degrees

MPs in Pakistan convicted for faking academic qualifications

A post back in 2010 noted the planned check of over 1,000 politicians’ academic credentials. A law passed a decade ago requires all MPs to hold degrees and, according to a recent University World News report, it does seem that some have been less than totally honest about their academic records:

graduation1

Following an order from the top court in Pakistan, lower courts have started convicting former members of parliament who contested the 2008 elections using fake degrees. Several politicians have been given jail sentences, and there are numerous cases now before lower courts, with judgments due soon.

Holding a degree qualification was a precondition for contesting the 2008 poll.

The cases were lodged against the lawmakers after Pakistan’s Supreme Court on 28 March ordered the lower judiciary and the election commission to take stern action against former MPs with fraudulent degrees, and to stop them from getting elected again in polls to be held on 11 May.

The apex court’s orders were based on its earlier verdict, passed in June 2010, which ordered the Higher Education Commission and the Election Commission of Pakistan, or ECP, to verify the degrees of all 1,095 parliamentarians and members of provincial assemblies.

The remainder of the story indicates that some of those convicted have received very small fines. Others have simply absconded. It is a rather strange law which does seem to encourage such behaviour.

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Fake Plastic Degrees

Easy come, easy go for fake degrees

Previous posts have noted the problems with fake degrees and there have been some high profile politicians unaccountably caught up with fake degree scandals in recent times. My eye was caught recently by this piece on degrees issued by an institution which doesn’t exist, Westfield University:

Ann E. Lewis, leader of Pencader Charter School, in Newcastle, Delaware, says that she holds a Ph. D. degree from Westfield University.

The only problem is that Westfield University doesn’t seem to exist. There is a major crisis in the world of higher education: the large and growing number of fake universities and fake degrees.

There is a website called college-degree-fast.com, and after completing a brief online application and paying a small fee, the site offers applicants a degree of their choice from any of several “universities.” One of those institutions is Westfield University, where Pencader High School leader Ann Lewis says she received her PhD.

The article also includes a few highlights from an interview with Ann Lewis about her qualifications. She doesn’t seem to have worked too hard for them:

“I got my MBA without my master’s thesis from Westfield University,” states Lewis.

A reporter states that a 25-year-old colleague applied to Westfield through college-fast-degree.com, and was offered a Ph.D. in organizational leadership.

When Lewis is questioned about her own Ph.D., she states that she didn’t have time to finish it, but got the Ph.D. anyway: “I finished this as far as I needed to do.” Apparently that should be enough to qualify anyone to get a Ph.D.

It’s great that some institutions seem to encourage such flexibility. However, this all seems to have been a bit too much publicity for Westfield University and its website has now disappeared as noted in this follow up piece. Don’t worry though, there will be many more along soon.

Pakistan’s politicians in fake university degree scandal

Fake university degree suggestions in Pakistan

The Daily Telegraph has reported that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has asked the Elections Commission to examine the degree certificates of almost all the country’s 1,100 elected officials:

The investigation has also reopened a question about whether President Asif Ali Zardari ever graduated, as he claims, from a London business school. Local journalists have pored over reams of documents and dedicated thousands of column inches to the issue, much to the anger of politicians.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf introduced the law in 2002, requiring all candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree. He claimed it would raise the calibre of politicians but critics said it was undemocratic in a country where 50 per cent of the population is illiterate. They suggested the real motive was to sideline opponents. The law has since been struck down but that has not stopped the Supreme Court last week asking for a review of parliamentarians elected when it was still in force. A spokesman for the Higher Education Commission said officials had already identified 35 members of parliament who had not filed their university degrees along with their nomination papers, while the diplomas of 138 members were illegible. At least one sent a friend to sit his exams.

The law is questionable but the consequences are clearly rather significant. Perhaps the most striking comment was this:

“A degree is a degree,” said Nawab Aslam Raisani, the chief minister of Balochistan when asked about the issue by reporters. “Whether fake or genuine, it’s a degree. It makes no difference.”

Indeed. Wonder what the Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee would have made of that line when they discussed comparability of degree standards in 2009.