Degrees from dubious universities under probe
By Koh Lay Chin
The Higher Education Ministry is now looking into complaint that two universities offering degrees from Cambridgeshire University and the Irish International University are not accredited or recognised in the UK, US and Ireland and that the institutions are bogus. The institution, NetAcademy Sdn Bhd, and Kolej Putra are the consultants appointed to conduct the courses offered by these universities and had applied to the ministry for official approval.
Another institution, Kolej Putra, also offers courses in collaboration with Cambridgeshire University.
According to a Kolej Putra officer, its courses in collaboration with Cambridgeshire University had been approved by the Education Ministry and were accredited by the Lembaga Akreditasi Negara (LAN).
NetAcademy, an MSC-status "education provider" approved by the government to provide e-learning are offering the MBA qualifications from these two universities.
"We may have to go overseas to conduct our investigations," the Ministry officer told the New Straits Times.
Last year, former student Yap Yee Lan lodged a police report against NetAcademy. She also took her case to the Consumer Claims Tribunal today, seeking a refund of almost RM14,000 in fees she paid to obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA). She alleged that after a year of classes in the MBA programme of the International Irish University, she and her classmates were abruptly asked to transfer to the programme of Cambridgeshire University. She then did some research, and discovered the universities were apparently unaccredited and unrecognised here.
Officials of both the British Council and the Malaysian- American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE) said they had no knowledge of these two universities or the courses offered.
Public Service Department accreditation unit officer Ross Rafizal Rosli also confirmed the two were not on its list of recognised universities and qualifications.
NetAcademy principal William Chong said there were many types of accreditation. "We do not tell people that we are a regionally accredited university, so they enrol at their choice and we have explained this to our students," he said.
"We are an MSC-status company which has been recognised by the Government to do e-learning programmes."
University Malaya degrees in Engineering and medicine are accredited and recognised by Malaysian authorities but are not recognised in UK, Europe and US. So?
Taiwan Engineering, pharmaceutical, dental and medical degrees are not recognised by Malaysian authorities but are recognised in UK and US. So?
University Crimea, Akita University and Chiba University of Japan - their medical degrees are not recognised by Malaysia Medical Council but are recognised in Japan, UK and US and Europe. So?
Many Malaysian graduates from local public universities (all accredited by Malaysian authorities) can't even speak proper English and unable to communicate in oral and written English. They are unemployable in Multi-national corporations and local corporations that do business with multi-nationals; except probably the Malaysian government services and GLCs. So?
What's the problem? What is accreditiation and what benefit can we derive from such accreditation?
The advantage of having a degree with an accredited university is the presumption that these accredited universities are deemed to have the necessary quality assurance system for the education offered and at such, the graduates are enabled with the relevant knowledge which will enable them to apply it into the works.
However, academic knowledge and emphirical knowledge are not the same. The presumption is that, with a good academic knowledge and the right exposure to the work environment, these graduates will in shorter time be able to built competencies and expertise.
Again, these are basically presumptions and organizations seeking to employ graduates may consider this presumptions as the basis of their evaluation. But the main criteria for employment do not rest entirely on this presumption. Take an example: when two person go for a job interview with an American or European multi-national corporation, one has an accredited degree from Malaysian University and cannot communicate in English, either written or oral, and the other is from Cambridgeshire which is unaccredited, but is excellent in English language, both written and oral, and both have the relevant engineering knowledge; who do you think gets employed?
In literal senses, it would be best to get into an accredited university, possibly at an Ivy League U, like Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Stanford, Imperial College, Nottingham, Warwick, Northrumbria, etc. But the cost of education in these universities may be unaffordable to many. Further, entry is limited and onerous.
The next best choice is probably a local university degree which are accredited. But then, it is reserved for under-graduates and the places available are insufficient to meet the growing population completing their from SPM and STPM students.
The other available choice for working professionals is to seek degrees via distant learning programs offered by local and foreign universities and managed by local organizations. Some are accredited by Lembaga Akreditasi Negara (LAN) while others do not apply for it as the cost of the application can be exorbitant. So, in a competitive environment and to stay viable, using this cost advantage, these providers are able to get more students.
The fundamental issue is not whether you have an accredited degree or an unaccredited one. It is about yourself. Most of these unaccredited distant learning institutions do provide excellent education and teaching materials. They get good lecturers to conduct seminary-styled lectures and students are to do attend lectures, do assignments, which will be marked by their foreign counterparts. In the final year, students may have to sit an exam, while many require students to submit volumnous dissertations or thesis.
At the end of the day, what matters is for those who go through these education to ask themselves what they had acquired and achieved and would the education make them a better professional?
The weakness of the system is that some of these local providers are unethical and have bad practices and approaches. They do not care about the quality of education and some even conduct themselves in a way that is seen as paper-milling organization. To those who "BUY" these degrees, they are accountable for themselves. They can have a degree but that is only a piece of paper. Ultimately, it is their knowledge capacity and capability to translate their newly learnt knowledge into their work environment. If inside their brain there has nothing, then, having the degree would not make them an intellectual.
What matters is the intellectual knowledge within, not that piece of paper qualification. Even those who do not have the paper qualification can be competent in what they do, largely because they read a lot, read wide enough, and had acquired intellectual knowledge. Many organizations are concerned with intellectual knowledge and competencies, not paper qualification. Paper qualification is most useful when seeking employment with government services only. Of course, if you have all the three - competencies, academic qualifications and right attitude, you will go far and high.