‘All of us can be harmed’ Update on Axact and Diploma Mills

Over the past few years I have written a great deal about groups such as Must University, California Paramount and the Axact scandal. Since the raid on Axact headquarters there has been an attempt to prosecute Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh the CEO of Axact. He was arrested on May 27, 2015 after the May 17th edition of The New York Times published an in-depth report exposing the fake degree business. However since then, he has been out on bail and never gone to trial.

There has been some progress in convicting others. Umair Hamid, a senior Axact official was arrested in the United States. According to the Pakistan paper Dawn  and numerous other papers in North America he pled guilty, sentenced him to 21 months in prison, and levied a fine of $5,303,020 for his role in an international diploma mill scheme.

The Axact operations sold phony degrees worldwide and generated a 1/2 billion dollars in sales or more. In a recent article by Canada’s CBC titled All of us can be harmed’: Investigation reveals hundreds of Canadians have phoney degrees,  it revealed more than 800 Canadians could have purchased a fake degree.  In the Middle East, ten’s of thousands were sold as legitimate degrees and the overall worldwide estimate is Axact sold over 200,000 of these documents.

The question is why Axact has not been convicted in Pakistan? The former special public prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Zahid Jamil said that the case against Axact was very strong but it was not presented in court. Many of the people who worked on the case and multiple prosecutors from resigned from the case and left the FIA. There has been some articles published that indicated many prosecutors, investigators and families were threaten and rather endanger themselves, they resigned.

Unfortunately diploma Mills are still operating and selling degrees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  I would suggest If you are contacted by phone or email by a group offering you an opportunity to finish your degree be it Bachelor’s, Master or Ph.D be cautious and before accepting ANY offer.  Find out a great deal more about the school. For example, if you are in the Middle East go to the higher education publication Al Fanar and check their site Monitoring Quality in Arab Higher Education.  This will show you about accredited schools by country. In other countries Google search the school and check very closely who is giving accreditation. Even some agencies could be bogus so Google them as well.

A simple rule of thumb in checking if a school is legitimate or a diploma mill:

  • Consider the cost of the degree
  • What is required to obtain the degree.

If it’s cheap and you do little work to obtain the degree then question if it’s a bogus school.  Do not lie to yourself. The danger you risk is if you choose to get such a degree that is likely from a diploma mill and you present it to an employer who discovers it is bogus, you may well be fired and if an expat could be in some cases, sent home or arrested. Additionally many of these schools once you have signed up and received payment will want more money. If you don’t do it they have been known to threaten to expose you to the government or your employer. Is it really worth taking a chance?

For further information on questionable or bogus schools that are promoting such degrees go to my article Fake degrees: Nixon U and Paramount California U are back. I receive a number of comments on schools you may wish to avoid.

 

Happy Birthday Al-Fanar Independent Education News for the Arab World

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In April 2012 David Wheeler formerly Managing Editor, Global Edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education asked if I would be interested in attending a workshop and giving my input in the potential launch of a journal/paper.  The basic idea was to hear from the participants their views on a potential new publication with the tentative name of the Arab Journal of Higher Education. The Workshop was organized and sponsored by the Alexandria Trust and was held in in Cairo May 12-14.

Forty eight of us including many Arab academics and western expats who worked in the region were in attendance during the two and half days. It was a passionate group who had varied and strong views about what a new publication should be, but unanimous in the view a higher education publication which focused on the Arab world was needed.  Al-Fanar as it’s now called states its mission is to, “publish independent news and analysis and serve as a platform for dialogue among institutions within and beyond the Arab world.”

One year ago Al-Fanar began publishing its online paper in English and in Arabic. It has slowly but surely progressed and has been gaining a loyal audience.

On the 11th of January, 2014 Al-Fanar ran a series of articles on the compensation packages of professors in the Public-university in 12 Arab countries.

ü  A Survey of Public-University Professors’ Pay

ü  Employment in the Gulf: Not Always What it Seems

ü  The Economic Struggle of Public-University Professors

ü  Graphic and FAQs: Arab Public-University Salaries

The series brought to light the economic status of higher education professors through the region. In Graphics and FAQs Arab Public-University Salaries they stated:

This survey is the first regional survey of the compensation of Arab public-university professors. The vast majority of Arab youth are educated at public universities, and so the professors at them are responsible for shaping the next generation. But in many countries, they have little or no economic motivation to take up this important profession. While money isn’t the only motivation, it is an important one, and compensation can show the priorities of governments and societies. This survey is not necessarily an argument for more spending on higher education–economic data indicates that education spending in many Arab countries is strong, but does not always seem to effectively produce qualified graduates.

The series broke new ground showing the economic challenges of being a professor in the Arab world. The stories were well written, presented data not well known to the higher education community, and will be a bench mark on compensation for future studies.

I was excited when David Wheeler told me of his plans in 2011 while I was visited him in DC and honored to be one of the people asked to attend the Workshop in May 2012.  With Al-Fanar just finishing its first year of publication it’s apparent to me they have succeeded as an independent news platform for higher education in the Arab World.

If you have not subscribed for this free publication I would recommend you do so. Go to Al-Fanar Media and click subscribe.

Happy Birthday and keep up the good work.