Thursday, October 23, 2008

Worthless degrees

Oct 22, 2008
Worthless degrees
76 people graduate from unaccredited university known as a degree supplier
By Sandra Davie and Cassandra Chew

Students of the unaccredited West Coast University, garbed in full academic regalia, celebrating after their graduation ceremony at Old Parliament house on Monday, which even came with an inspiring speech from the university's honorary president.
THE ceremony in the Old Parliament House had all the pomp and circumstance associated with any graduation.
The professors and graduands were in full academic regalia. Speeches flowed in English and Mandarin. And afterwards, a gala dinner at a hotel.

Cash for paper in some cases
THE term 'degree mill' is used widely to refer to institutions that offer degrees to students who do not have to do much work to graduate.Some operate with no more than a mailing address to which people send money in exchange for a piece of paper that looks like a degree. Others require some nominal work to be done but do not require college-level coursework.
... moreAt the ceremony, the university's honorary president, a Professor Bernard Cadet, delivered an inspiring speech, urging graduands to transform the world.
'Believe nothing is impossible. West Coast University (WCU) will be proud of you in the future,' he told the 76 graduands from Singapore, Indonesia and China, before handing them their doctorates, master's and bachelor's degrees.
But this was a ceremony for an unaccredited university based in Panama, not Los Angeles, as its school in Singapore had claimed.
The Asia-Australia School of Management (AASM), a Case-certified school in Middle Road, offers West Coast University programmes here with a related company, Huanyu Training Expert.
At least two American states have outlawed degrees from WCU, describing it as a 'degree supplier' that offers 'fraudulent or substandard degrees'.
The Texas State Higher Education Coordinating Board warns on its website that WCU 'is used by multiple unaccredited entities. The extent to which they are related is unknown, but more than one operator is suspected.'
In some parts of the United States, it is a criminal offence to use degrees from unaccredited institutions.
'Dr' John Huang, one of the owners of AASM and Huanyu, insisted that the university is based in Los Angeles and faxed The Straits Times documents showing West Coast University International registered as a business in California.
But he confirmed that it was not the California-based West Coast University reputed for nursing and health science-related degrees. He admitted that WCU was unaccredited, but said his students had been given the facts.
His doctorate is from Ashwood University, the same degree mill that granted this reporter's pet dog a doctorate for US$599 (S$886) just two months ago.
The guest of honour at Monday's ceremony was MP for Joo Chiat Chan Soo Sen, who delivered a speech in Mandarin and English.
Contacted afterwards, he said he had been invited by a grassroots leader and accepted as he wanted to encourage the habit of life-long learning.
Told that WCU was unaccredited, he said he had not been given any information about it. 'If my presence there had given the university credibility, that was not my intention,' he said.
Several graduates interviewed after Monday's ceremony believed the university was based in Los Angeles and that it was a proper institution.
They had paid between $13,000 and $19,000 in fees to take up bachelor's, master's and doctorate courses lasting one year to 15 months.
Those who took up the doctorate programme said they attended classes two days a month, from 9am to 5pm.
Several said they did not know a university can be registered and yet have no academic accreditation, where it is subject to quality checks by an independent body. It also means employers may not recognise the degrees.
An electronics factory quality controller who paid $13,000 in fees for her bachelor's degree said: 'I was hoping to get a better job in logistics with this degree, but now it may not be possible.'
Ms Ho Fee Men, director of a Chinese medical hall, said she had heard rumours that the university was unaccredited, but continued with her PhD programme anyway. To get her doctorate, she paid $19,000 in fees, attended classes twice a month over 15 months and wrote a 50,000-word thesis.
Two businessmen said they knew their doctorates were worthless but took up the programme to learn about business management.
Mr Chang Chia Sheng, 55, managing director of X.L. Handle, which makes industrial fasteners, said he gained from discussions with other businessmen.
At least 218 people here have been found with degrees from dubious universities such as Preston, Wisconsin International and Kennedy-Western.
Business owners make up one of three groups here who have degrees from unaccredited institutions and degree mills. For many of them, an honorary PhD has become a must-have symbol of success.
Another group comprises consultants and private school lecturers who may have a first degree and some expertise in a particular area, but seek a master's degree or doctorate to bolster their credentials.
And lastly, there are those who pay for undergraduate degrees and transcripts - usually non-graduates who want qualifications to gain jobs or promotions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stanfield College versus CASE

Stansfield wins appeal to have NTUC Income added as 2nd defendant in CASE suit
By Margaret Perry, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 22 October 2008 2213 hrs

SINGAPORE : Stansfield College has successfully appealed to the High Court for NTUC Income to be added as a second defendant in a lawsuit it filed last year against the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE). Stansfield College is suing CASE for losses suffered after it suspended the college from its CaseTrust for Education scheme in 2006.

The CASE scheme is an accreditation programme which all private schools wishing to enrol international students are required to join. NTUC Income is the only provider of private school fee insurance for foreign students that is recognised by CASE. Stansfield College had earlier applied to add NTUC Income as a second defendant, but its application was disallowed. This was due to an existing arbitration clause in the policy between Stansfield College and NTUC Income.

In a statement, Stansfield said its lawyers had argued in the High Court before Justice Woo Bih Li that NTUC Income should be added as defendants despite the arbitration clause. Their reason was the risk of inconsistent findings if the lawsuit against CASE were to proceed in court while the claim against NTUC Income were to be arbitrated. The exchange of documents between Stansfield and CASE during the pre-trial process also revealed certain correspondence between CASE and NTUC Income.

Responding to Stansfield's statement to the media, CASE said the college's case in court had changed over time and that its latest allegations in its amended statement of claim were without merit, regardless of whether NTUC Income was made party to the suit. The case is expected to go to trial early next year. - CNA/ms

Clearer rules on private schools

MOE to set clearer rules to curb false, misleading ads by private school
By Channel NewsAsia Posted: 22 October 2008 1412 hrs

SINGAPORE: Clearer rules will be put in place to curb false and misleading advertisements by private schools. The Education Ministry (MOE) said the rules will cover the proper use of quality labels, symbols and trademarks by private schools in advertisements and promotional material. The institutions should also refrain from making untruthful claims about the school and its courses.

Education Minister Ng Eng Hen gave this update on Wednesday in a written reply to questions from Members of Parliament on the regulation and supervision of private schools. This is part of MOE's efforts to strengthen the current regulatory framework for private education.

MOE announced in March it will set up an independent Council for Private Education to enforce the enhanced regulatory regime. Dr Ng said the Council will have the necessary powers to direct corrective measures if private school operators publish misleading advertisements. The Council will also promote a better understanding of private education sector through consumer awareness and public education programmes to help potential students make informed choices when enrolling for private school courses. - CNA/yb

Monday, February 25, 2008

Can you call this a school?

Below is an article on some problematic private schools in Singapore published in the Straits Times.

By Sandra Davie, Education Correspondent
CRAMPED: Punniya Language and Computer Centre in Peace Centre, which said it ran IT courses, had only three computers in one classroom while another had room for only five students. -- ST PHOTO: LEE PEI QI
View more photos
WHEN Indian student R. Thevan, 19, was considering coming to Singapore to study, he started by looking at the list of schools that had been screened by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).
He was surprised when the first school he looked at on the list, Eastwest Education Centre, also advertised Russian women and a dating service on its website.
He thought Camford Business School's website looked more credible - until he checked the lecturers' credentials.
The academic dean, Mr K.C. Wong, had a degree from Paramount University of Technology in Wyoming, which American media had widely reported as a degree mill which gives out degrees to students who do little or no academic work.
Worse, the school in Yangtze Building in Chinatown offers degree courses from the same university to students.
Said Thevan, who has applied to enrol in the Singapore Institute of Management, one of the top-ranked private schools: 'I was surprised. Singapore is known for being strict and assuring high quality. Why are such schools even allowed to exist?'
What the teenager uncovered was only the tip of the iceberg.
A Straits Times random check on the list of 327 Case-accredited private schools here found that at least a dozen have shockingly low standards for their courses, teaching staff and facilities.
Their websites were scrutinised on courses offered, university partners and lecturers' qualifications. Background checks were also done on school owners with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).
This was followed by visits to the premises.
First, the degree courses.
Besides Camford Business School in Yangtze Building which offers Paramount University of Technology degrees, Boston International School in Cecil Street also runs degree courses from a 'West Coast University'.
A check on Boston International's university partner found that this is not the West Coast University that is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in the United States, which is known for its health-care degree programmes, especially in nursing.
Boston International's West Coast University is accredited by an agency located in the South Pacific islands of Wallis and Futuna.
Camford quoted a $16,000 fee for a 18- to 24-month degree course, and Boston International quoted $15,000 for a 12-month degree course.
But first, students have to obtain a diploma and advanced diploma, which will set them back another $10,000.
Most private schools refrain from publicising detailed qualifications of their lecturers, but freely confer titles of 'Dr' and 'Professor' on them.
But a few that did state the qualifications of their lecturers and even 'academic or research deans' were found to have qualifications from degree mills.
Besides Camford academic dean Wong, Cornell Business School, which could not be located at its listed address, has a Dr Alvin Oh who is an 'ecmomic Doctor in Leiqiesite University', which does not seem to exist.
West Business School in Peace Centre displays the credentials of its principal, a Dr Daniel Grayston, who has a PhD from Trinity College and University, which will ship you a degree complete with transcript of your results for under $500.
Some schools provided facilities that were far from adequate.
Punniya Language and Computer Centre in Peace Centre, for example, said it ran IT courses, but its computer room had only three computers.
An adjacent classroom had room for only five students.
Several schools running English language courses, supposedly taught by trained expatriate teachers, could not even get their basics right. Their websites were riddled with grammatical errors.
A check on the owners and officers of the schools also threw up some concerns.
Tie-ups with degree mills
Lecturers with dubious credentials
Website that offers Russian wives
Facilities which are inadequate
Checks done with Acra, which registers businesses, showed that two school owners were also involved in running nightclubs and KTV bars.
This is despite an Education Ministry (MOE) statement on its website that private school operators cannot have 'questionable' backgrounds.
Last year, a private school owner who also owned nightclubs was charged and sentenced to jail for 44 months for forging social visit passes for more than a dozen women from China.
Ng Teck Peng, 34, was sales and marketing manager for Ritz Everton Academy in Peace Centre, which was reported to have about 50 students, mostly Chinese women, taking courses on cooking and English.
Ng's activities came to light when some of the women, caught during police raids on vice-related activities, were found to have forged social visit passes which came from Ritz Everton.
What is surprising is that all these schools had gone through some initial checks when they registered as a private school with MOE and another round of stricter checks to win the CaseTrust award.
To be registered, private schools need to meet building and fire safety requirements, and have qualified teachers, appropriate facilities and a school management committee comprising at least one member.
For the CaseTrust mark, schools are vetted on their marketing brochures as well as their websites to ensure information on school facilities, courses, accreditation, curriculum content and qualifications of teachers is accurate and complete.
But MOE told The Straits Times that registration is not tantamount to accreditation or endorsement of a private school or its courses.
Case said it does several checks to verify information given by schools. It also hires consultants to pose as 'mystery shoppers' seeking information on courses and the school.
But Case director Seah Seng Choon said the CaseTrust scheme is not meant to ensure educational excellence, as that is beyond the association's purview.
Indian student Thevan, who was given a similar reply by Case, said: 'Then, why have such quality schemes? Surely, in the case of schools, it is more important to look at the quality of courses and teaching.'

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Private Tertiary Institutions in Singapore

1. Lasalle College of the Arts
2. Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
3. 3dense Media School
4. Singapore Institute of Management www.buildyourown
5. LearningCapital-School of Higher Education
6. ERC Institute
7. APMI Kaplan
8. Asia Pacific School of Sports + Business
9. BMC Academy
10. James Cook University
11. Management Development Institute of Singapore
12. PSB Academy
13. Alberton Management Institute
14. Centre for American Education
15. Raffles Campus Business School
16. Singapore Accountancy Academy
17. TMC Academy
18. SMa School of Management
19. AEC Business School
20. School D'Hospitality
21. Hartford Institute of Singapore
22. Melior Business School
23. Tourism Management Institute of Singapore
24. Raffles Education Corporation,
25. Singapore Education Services Centre