Legislation required against diploma mill degree holders

I wanted to share an article by Tariq A. Al-Maeena, a well known commentator in Saudi Arabia advocating legislative action against diploma mill owners. This was published in the Saudi Gazette on July 14th. Thank you for citing my May blog  on shutting down diploma mills. Lets hope we see action in Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE and other nations to make sure people and the companies who offer them, to do not benefit from fake degrees.

I also wrote an opinion piece for the United States Distance Learning Association calling for their support in exposing these groups in the US. http://usdla.berkeleycollege.edu/12113.htm

Legislation required against diploma mill degree holders
A few days ago I received a disturbing email that set of alarm bells and signals of concern. In a limited but analytical study, Dean Hoke, the founder of Edu Alliance, an education management-consulting firm based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, disclosed disturbing figures of people with bogus degrees living and working in the GCC.

Hoke, who has an extensive background in the fields of higher education, broadcasting and community relations, used a recent New York Times expose on the bogus degree practices by the Pakistan corporation called Axact and gleaned out the names of the fake universities offering fake diplomas. He then cross checked names of these institutions on the LinkedIn website with GCC professionals who professed to carry credentials from these universities. What he found out was indeed alarming.

There were over 3,000 people with bogus degrees living in the GCC. Hoke provided five examples of people who state on LinkedIn that they have a degree from the bogus schools and what they do for a living:

• Saudi Arabia: General Manager at Healthcare Services Company
• UAE: Principal at International Private School Abu Dhabi
• Qatar: Head of Project Controls at Qatar Gas Company
• Kuwait: Safety Site Superintendent
• Bahrain: Deputy General Manager of a Islamic Bank

As Hoke describes in his study, “The New York Times determined hundreds of online universities are likely to be linked to Axact’s operation. I decided to look further into the list of universities to determine how many people have a degree from one or more of these schools. I went into my LinkedIn account and began a search of each university, which generated a list of individuals who reported being a graduate of one of the bogus school. I restricted my search to the GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman).”

He summarized his findings as follows: The UAE had the highest number of bogus degree holders followed very closely by Saudi Arabia. What was particularly significant to me was the companies in the Kingdom that employed these fake charlatans. Saudi ARAMCO has four bogus degree holders on their payroll. Al Marai, Abdul Lateef Jameel and STC also have imposters working within their organizations, and the list keeps going on and on. The list includes a variety of organizations from airport expansion to civil works that have been duped by these frauds who are currently on their payroll and no doubt have been instrumental in the project delays and high costs.

I had long admired ARAMCO as the premier organization in the Kingdom. But in recent years I have been receiving a stream of complaints from some of my readers about the growing ills within the company. Charges of nepotism, bureaucratic inefficiencies and a general malaise were some of the items brought up.

Some ARAMCOANS told me they decided to opt for early retirement on account of the gradual shift from what was a highly fine-tuned organization run according to high Western standards to the state of affairs as they claim it is today. Findings by Dean Hoke shore up their credibility because if ARAMCO has indeed employed bogus degree holders then they have slipped very far down the ladder.

Hoke also warns us that this list was gleaned only from the names of bogus universities that Axact was using. “The bad news is that there are many hundreds of others doing the same thing.” And it is not simply bogus degrees that such companies provides. “Apart from the alleged sale of fake diplomas and degrees through its online universities and colleges, Karachi-based IT company Axact has also been offering its services as ‘proxy students’, filling in for all the academic work originally assigned to students enrolled in reputable educational institutions in US.” This is indeed disturbing and will continue to proliferate in a region that needs quality rather than quantity.

It is important to remember that Hoke’s study was a limited one. I shudder to imagine what more can he reveal with another exhaustive study and with unlimited resources at his disposal. It is time to send a strong message to such charlatans that their bogus credentials will not be tolerated. The media must play a bigger role in alerting society of such ills. The Shoura Council must make immediate legislation to penalize all those proven to be carrying fake degrees with hefty fines and jail sentences.

Otherwise we may one day find ourselves undergoing heart surgery or flying on an aircraft manned by one of these impostors.

— Tariq A. Al-Maeena can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

— Dean Hoke can be reached at dean.hoke@edu-alliance.net and I can be followed on Twitter @deanhoke

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