Online Masters and Doctoral degrees can be easily bought these days. A PhD is going for as little as RM2,300. Throw in a bit more and even a mock convocation will be arranged for you. The Star's S. INDRAMALAR discovers just how easy it is to gain an online postgraduate degree
I HAVE just received my MBA and guess what, getting it was as easy as ABC!
No research necessary, not even a Bachelor’s degree – all I needed was to pay a small fee for it.
And a colleague has now 'earned the right' to add the prefix 'Dr' before her name – just for US$599 (RM2,276).
For under RM3,000, anyone who has access to the Internet can “buy” an online Doctoral (PhD) degree in any field – from nuclear physics to immunology and education psychology – from numerous bogus websites.
While most doctorates take anywhere between three to five years to obtain, these online PhDs can reach you within a month. And, if you are willing to pay more, you can even purchase a deal that includes a mock convocation ceremony complete with a hired foreigner posing as the “vice-chancellor” of a foreign university.
To show how easy it was to get a fake degree, several reporters from The Star assumed the role of degree hunters and went online to a site renowned for offering all kinds of awards – from high school diplomas to associate and Bachelor degrees, Masters and PhDs.
We decided to try for both a Masters and a PhD – I applied for a Master of Business Administration Degree in Hospitality Management (US$499 or RM1,896) and my colleague applied for a Doctor of Education Degree in Early Childhood Education.
All we had to do was fill in a form.
The information we were required to list down on the form was basic – name, address, contact number, education history and work experience (if any) and also the type of degree we wanted and our preferred date of graduation.
Of course, we supplied false information and identities – I was Elizabeth Gerner and my friend became Ivy Gomez. To see how easy it was to get a Masters and Doctorate we listed ourselves as mere high school graduates with no first degrees.
For work experience, we put down between five to 10 years' experience working as a waitress and a receptionist respectively.
Within three days, I got an e-mail, which read: “Dear Applicant, You have been approved for your degree from ? University. You will need your application Authentication Code (which was given) and your e-mail address when you order your degree package, which will include our official college diploma (or degree) in a padded embossed diploma cover, your official transcripts, access to the college or university website, alumni information and verification services.
“Delivery of your graduate package will be about 21 days from your payment date. We will advise via e-mail once your order is shipped.
“Congratulations and good luck in your future endeavours.”
Ivy Gomez’s application was also successful and upon payment of the US$599, she would receive her PhD along with the same accompanying paraphernalia as me from the same university.
Both e-mails were sent by a “Jeff Collins” – the academic adviser of the website.
An earlier check with the Malaysian-American Commission on Education Exchange (Macee) confirmed that the university was not accredited by any of the US Department of Education's approved regional accrediting bodies.
The degree awarding site “justifies” its activity by claiming to be an education consulting firm representing universities in all regions of the world that offer “non-traditional” online degrees and transcripts for students who don’t have the time or the money to obtain a degree the traditional way.
The website reads: “We represent universities and colleges that will grant college degrees based upon life experience, work history, military experience and/or previous college credits; or a combination thereof.”
And it goes on to differentiate itself from “online degree mills” that offer fake degrees! “Don’t settle for a fake degree, when you can get a real college degree online using our service. We are an education consulting firm that will match your experience with degree granting college(s) or university(ies).
“You shouldn’t consider ordering from a degree mill. There are degree mills all over the Internet promoting their college, and advertising the opportunity to get your degree in 21 days, etc from a school that everyone knows is a degree mill.
“The problem with these schools is that by advertising the name of the school openly over the Internet, the school is immediately known to all as a degree mill. We do not broadcast the names of the institutions which we represent,” said the website.
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