Sunday, 19 November 2017

PAPERS OF DISHONOUR; Fake Honorary Degrees in Ghana

By Jojo Chartei Quansah

Intellectually, I was mentored by an academic; one with two doctoral degrees these days. He was a friend who taught me a lot of the things I needed to thrive in life after my first university certificate. This regime taught me the rigours of academic work and intellectual creativity. The long nights (sometimes all nights) skimming through tonnes of knowledge bases, trying to form that single conceptual framework that can unlock the discovery of new knowledge and theories, relevant to our unique Ghanaian environment. But I did not end up in academia, at least not yet. One more degree later, I think I am pretty happy in industry, at least for now. I get to create my own conceptual frameworks and actually experiment with it.

So why this introductory paragraph above? It points to one thing: a desperate need to protect the depth of intellect for not just our generation, but the ones that come after it. It is super critical, that people be taught the culture of not just acquiring knowledge, but also adding to it. One of the best systems for imbibing this school of thought, is our education system. It is the fundamental launchpad for the next generation of deep thinkers and creators. Which is why I am even more upset that in-depth validation of knowledge and intellectual accomplishment is being cheapened these days, with a sudden influx of non-existent institutions one can simply buy certificates from. Literally buy!

Out of nowhere, they came, with names like:

  • Dayspring Christian University
  • Pan African Council of Clergy
  • University of Barkley
  • American Century University
  • Commonwealth University, UK (CUB)
  • Atlantic International University

 

In the USA, they are popularly known as “Diploma Mills”, which is quite an appropriate name, as they just churn degrees on a virtual assembly line. But with law enforcement having done quite extensive work to immobilise a number of such institutions, attention has been switched to developing markets with weak law enforcement and naivety, mixed with a dose of titular obsession. Their target victims are mainly people with public access, fame and/or accomplished in a particular field: Politicians, Journalists, Pastors, Government Ministers, Entrepreneurs, Business People, etc. In fact, this whole “industry” began years before this time, with the pastors! They were the first group of people to clamour after theological qualifications that required minimal or no coursework and research to graduate. This happened mainly through correspondence studies. Does your Ghanaian pastor have a “doctor” title you cannot trace? Good, there is a good probability, it is a fake! These scam artists understand the lure of the Ghanaian mentality. We are obsessed with titles, and they know it. They also know that even after you have made a fortune of hundreds of millions of Cedis and employed hundreds of people, you cannot self-actualize until you find and display “doctor” before your name. They know your accomplishments do not bring you the self-perceived recognition you think you deserve, so they will make you pay for one. A made-up one. A fake one.

This is a multi-billion dollar industry selling fake degrees to naive persons all over the world. One of the biggest of such scams to be uncovered by investigative journalism, is the Pakistani firm Axact. Despite describing itself as a “World’s Leading IT Company”, Axact built a fortune hawking fake degrees over the phone to naive persons all over the world. They created websites for non-existing schools with Anglo-American sounding names. They made people part with their life savings in exchange for a piece of card most likely printed on an office desktop printer. The New York Times did a massive exposé on them, which can be found here: http://goo.gl/sxdsXz. There are the sleek set-ups like Axact, who will try to cover up with a legit looking store front. A number of the ones that operate on gullible Ghanaians, are set up like Axact, with fake faculty whose only qualifications are the ones from the same “university”. Then there are also the ones from random individuals operating from their bedrooms in a corner of the world. Those ones do not care about trying to look legit by renting the British Council Hall in Accra for an honorary doctoral awarding ceremony. No. They will only communicate via snail mail. They send you a few papers and finally send you your printed card, after they receive final payment. You have just earned a degree from the bedroom of a 20-something year old in Mumbai! Now wipe that silly look off your face and look proud.

I see the victims of these systems around all the time. They are on my TV news, some have recently appeared on my Facebook (and I have been kind enough to offer advice), some are using their fake degrees to create further public deceit. They are mostly the loudest people with titles too. You might think coming to the knowledge that they carry a fake degree title will “humble” them. How mistaken are we all. They will gladly display it on event posters, photo captions and newspaper stories. When it comes to carrying a fake doctoral title in Ghana, there really is little or no shame at all.

How to spot a fake degree from a mile away

There have been limited innovations in the fake degree industry in recent years. What is happening is that as developed markets are becoming more aware, there has been a shift to find new customers (victims, actually) in the developing world. The methods however, have remained the same. Which is why three years ago, Dayspring Christian University literally started sharing fake doctoral degrees in Ghana. My own enquiries (and a number of my friends have similar experiences), revealed that with $499, I could have a fake honorary doctoral piece of paper in the mail within a fortnight. How anyone will take this serious, is baffling to my educated mind. Be on the lookout for the following tell-tale signs when you encounter such set-ups:

  1. Accreditation: Thanks to search engines, this is the simplest verification to carry out. In Ghana, majority of these institutions present themselves as American. Thankfully, the US education system has provided this database for free: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation. The UK government has a database here as well: https://goo.gl/Rv5zsu. Beware of making enquiries as well, as you will be offered the standard line: “We are accredited by institution A, B and C. We have almost completed accreditation process with our national accreditation authorities”. Trust me, institutions A, B and C are as fake as the universities they claim to accredit. Locally, the National Accreditation Board is building a little list here:

http://www.nab.gov.gh/doctorate-degrees.

  1. Requirements: Beware of universities that offer you a degree based on your work experience only. Some will simply ask you to add a recommendation letter from your colleague as evidence of your “good works”. They will throw in a bit of religious feel-good words for effect. You will find my example with Dayspring Christian University at the end of this article.

When a proper university decides to confer an honorary doctorate on you, they will identify and confer it on you at a congregation ceremony. A perfect Ghanaian example is how our first lady was invited to a proper Fordham University congregation of academics and graduating students, and conferred with an honorary doctoral degree for her charity work. Beware of institutions that offer to fly down to your country to confer certificates and titles on you, at a private ceremony. In fact, beware of all such private graduation ceremonies. They will usually rent a hotel conference room, or a seemingly respectable venue like the British Council Hall, College of Physicians and Surgeons or a venue on a real university campus! To provide perception of legitimacy, Dayspring Christian University used the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences of the University of Ghana, as venue for its ceremony in 2014. It is a simple red flag to get you searching.

If it is an academic certificate and not honorary, you should beware of easy requirements of a couple of correspondent tests to receive a diploma or degree. Always ask yourself: if I had attended a locally accredited Ghanaian institution, will I get a degree or diploma with such ease?

  1. Duration: Because these fake institutions are basically set up to close a sale, they will try to fast-track your time to payment. So you will see offers like; “A Diploma in 2 Days” and “Earn a Doctorate Degree in 30 Days”. They are so much in a hurry to close the sale that they will not even lengthen the duration for effect.
  1. Fees: This is an early tell-tale sign. A fake online degree set-up will usually ask you to pay a flat fee at a go. Proper institutions will charge you per module, credit, semester or year. These scam artists want an upfront payment, before all processes to receive your printed certificate can commence. Refer to my email at the end of this post.
  1. Names: In order to create familiarity without attracting a lawsuit, fake institutions or diploma mills tend to create names similar to real universities. Here are a few fake versus original examples:
  • Cambridge International University vs. University of Cambridge
  • University of Berkley vs. University of California Berkeley
  • Alexandria University, Nevada vs. Alexandria University, Egypt
  • Kingston College, British Columbia vs. Kingston College, London
  • Standford University vs. Stanford University
  • Texas Christian Bible University vs. Texas Christian University

The promoters behind foreign-based fake degree institutions continue to play on a combination of inferiority complex, ignorance and a titular obsession to propagate embarrassing public spectacles in our media. It is disturbing to find quite accomplished individuals purchasing full-page newspaper slots to celebrate attaining a fake honorary doctorate. Educated, experienced and well-travelled individuals, caught up in an unfortunate desire to acquire a title they do not necessarily deserve. The seriousness of this situation, is evident in the email I have shared below, which is an exchange with Dayspring Christian University (a popular honorary doctorate “sharing” institution, with an impressive list of victims). Yet, people actually take them serious. I remain in my astonishment.

Mind their grammar and typos. Cheers.

Jojo Chartei Quansah <jojotrice04@gmail.com>               Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 6:05 PM

To: dayspringchristianuniversity@yahoo.com

 

Hello Sir, Madam

Good evening. I live in Accra, Ghana. I have followed recent activities of Dayspring University in Ghana. Please confirm how I can get my achievements validated with an honorary doctorate in my field of endeavour.

Thank you.

Jojo Chartei Quansah

Accra, Ghana

 

Dr. barkman Gary <dayspringchristianuniversity@yahoo.com> Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 10:41 PM

Reply-To: “Dr. barkman Gary” <dayspringchristianuniversity@yahoo.com>

To: Jojo Chartei Quansah <jojotrice04@gmail.com>

 

Greetings Dr. Quansah … Blessings to you.

 

We can assist you directly concerning your request for an honorary doctoral degree.  We need your Cee Vee, and a recommendation from one of your colleagues.  The Fee is only $499.00 USD is you do this directly through DCU in the United States.

 

Here are the bodies that have accredited us:

 

Dayspring Christian University is a member of the

Association of Biblical Accountability in Christian Education

 

DCU is an Accredited Academic Instution of the

American Association of Christian Therapists

 

The University has received accreditation with the

World Wide Accreditation Commission of Christian Educational Institutions Since June 2013

 

 

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Blessings

 

Office of the Registrar

 

Dr. barkman Gary <dayspringchristianuniversity@yahoo.com> Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Reply-To: “Dr. barkman Gary” <dayspringchristianuniversity@yahoo.com>

To: Jojo Chartei Quansah <jojotrice04@gmail.com>

 

Greetings Rev Quansiah

 

We greet you in the name of our Christ

 

We did not receive your application for receipt of an Honorary degree in the required time.  However you are in luck or should we say in favor with our Lord.  Our office has with our President’s approval set up a Christmas special so that you can receive your honorary degree for $75.00USD LESS that what we first quoted you.  This offer expires on December 15, 2014.  We hope you are truly interested.  We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Respecfully

 

Office of the Registrar

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1 Comment

  • Hi Jojo,
    You just write nonsense without making an appropriate research to understand the meaning of of “Accreditation” and by classifying Atlantic International University as “diploma Mille”. Please make an appropriate research on this online university.

    Which university is the best and who accredit who. I hope you are brainwashed.

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