Friday, August 10, 2012

Singapore and Malaysian degree mills

"Dr" Ho Kah Leong 

Former Singapore Senior Parliamentary Secretary and Member of Parliament  "Dr" Ho Kah Leong (何家良"
博士"), whose integrity I do not question (assuming that he did not pay for the doctorate, and was naive and duped), showed his lack of judgment by accepting and flaunting his Honorary Doctorate (PhD in Doctor of Philosophy in Arts) given in Aug 2001 by the Wisconsin International University (USA), a notorious degree mill.  (source1source2)

[For details on Wisconsin International University, see Wisconsin International University is a degree mill, admits its boss, John Buuck at the end of this post.]
He should have shown more sagacity by avoiding such an implied endorsement of a fraudulent outfit.


Singapore degree mills 

The Straits Times, Nov 28, 2009 (source)

DEGREE mills that churn out 'graduates' at the drop of a hat are the sort of dodgy outfits we link with shadier parts of the world, but the problem is a lot closer to home and threatens to harm Singapore's name as an education centre.

Small as it is, the country appears six times on a list compiled by Oregon's Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA).

The American state has strict laws regarding the use of qualifications from unaccredited institutions and those dubbed 'degree mills' or 'degree suppliers'. It requires that a person's business cards, CV and letterhead declare if his degree is from an unaccredited university.

The term - degree or diploma mill - has been used in the United States and around the world to refer to 'substandard or fraudulent colleges that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work'. They range from those which are simple frauds - an address to which people send money in exchange for a degree - to those that require some nominal work from the student but do not require the college-level study normally required for a degree.

Oregon's laws make its list one of the most comprehensive compiled by a state government body in the United States.

It names six institutions here as offering unaccredited qualifications: Cranston University, Templeton University, Trident University of Technology, Vancouver University Worldwide, Westmore University (Westmore College) and Lee Community College.

[ed. Buxton University, possibly from Singapore, and Wisconsin International University are also on the list.]

Names of institutions go on the list if there are queries made by members of the public. Checks are carried out on the status of the university both in the US and with foreign governments before they are put on the list.

Checks by The Straits Times found that Westmore University's website is hosted by a company operating out of Science Park.

Vancouver University Worldwide, which was ordered to be shut by the Canadian government two years ago, had offered its courses here for a few years.

Several insurance industry professionals have MBAs, while some even have doctorates, from the university.

A few Singaporeans were also found to have degrees from Cranston University and Templeton University. Both are listed as online universities, based in Singapore and possibly Nevada.

The Palin School of Arts and Design in Bras Basah lists Trident University of Technology degrees, but Palin officials say that currently they are not offering the degree programme in advertising and design.

ODA's list says Trident was denied approval by the state of Wisconsin and it was never legal in New Jersey as claimed.

But what was surprising was the presence on the list of Lee Community College. The private school has a CaseTrust for Education quality mark and is popular for its diploma courses in counselling and psychology.

The Straits Times found that the school, in Maxwell Road, also offers a degree from the American University for Humanities (AUH), which a staff member said is accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education.

(ed. Judging from the absence of any useful information in English on the AUH website, it is hard to believe that AUH is capable of fulfilling its claim of offering genuine American style liberal arts education.)

ODA's website has this to say about the American university: 'New name for American University of Hawaii, which was closed by court order. Operations claiming accreditation from The American Academy for Liberal Education in Lebanon do not meet Oregon legal requirements and degrees are not valid here. Degrees issued from Delaware are not valid in Oregon.' (For details, read "A Tangled Tale in Tbilisi" here.)

Although the school has been offering degree courses for years, a check with the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that Lee Community College is not approved to offer any external degree programmes.

An MOE spokesman said the matter would be investigated.

It warned that new regulations require all private schools to seek permission from the new statutory board, the Council for Private Education (CPE) before offering external degree programmes, including online programmes.

Non-compliance may lead to deregistration of the private school and prosecution of its officials.

"Dr" (bogus?) Frederick Toke, boss of Lee Community College, 
a Singapore diploma mill 

Lee Community College's chief executive, Dr Frederick Toke (ed. see below for Fred Toke's suspect doctorate), said the school spent over $100,000 (ed. probably grossly exaggerated) to seek accreditation for the degree programme, which was from the American University for Humanities in Tbilisi, Georgia.

It was accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), a recognised accrediting agency in the US for liberal arts institutions, but was rejected by the MOE.


[ed. misleading assertions by Fred Toke

AALE accredited AUH in Tbilisi in 2006, raising doubts among US academics about AALE's own credibility (here).

It appears that Lee Community College (LCC) sought, but has not gained, accreditation from AALE for its liberal arts program offered in conjunction with AUH. (here)

LCC had been awarding bachelor's degree in counselling psychology, using AUH's name, for years without any accreditation.

A degree in counselling psychology, being a professional degree, is not a liberal arts degree. AALE's accreditation, even if granted to LCC, would not cover such a professional degree anyway. ]


Dr Toke did not explain why the school continued to offer the degree despite the MOE rejection. He would only say that the school is now seeking MOE approval to run other degree programmes from the US.

Mr Alan Contreras, the administrator for Oregon's ODA, said Singapore never used to feature on the ODA's list.

'The problem Singapore has is that it opened the door to private post-secondary education without establishing a serious governmental oversight process to make those providers prove that they are legitimate,' he said.

'In effect, your government has allowed its name to be used inappropriately because only government authorised colleges can issue genuine degrees.'

Mr Contreras also warned: 'Without enforcement of standards by the government, anything goes. This is why the reputation of degrees issued in Singapore is falling.'

The MOE said that under the new laws that will come into effect by the end of the year, the Council for Private Education will run checks on these claimed partnerships.

'These measures will help ensure that dubious programmes offered by degree mills will not be permitted by CPE to be offered in Singapore,' said the spokesman.

But the new laws have come too late for a 26-year-old who attended evening classes and did course work for over three years for an AUH degree from Lee Community College.

The administrative manager hopes the new laws for private schools will ensure that only valid degrees are offered here.

'I took up the degree because I was interested in a counselling career. I spent more than $20,000 of my hard-earned money to study for the degree. Now I find out that it is worthless.'


More on Singapore degree mills


Cranston University, Templeton University – these two printers seem to specialize in account management courses. It’s worthwhile noting that Templeton U is registered under a Las Vegas PO box number (IR here I come!), and offers discount coupons for its courses on Merchant Circle.
Trident University of Technology – From a writeup in Palin U: “A long standing tradition of academic excellence in the field of Business and Technology education. This year the university was re-named Trident University of Technology to signify its continual growth and improvement as it looks ever forward to fulfilling its mission of becoming an internationally recognised, world-class university of technology.” And to try to escape the banned list, no doubt. The website is, of course, down.
Vancouver University Worldwide – From a cached webpage (the actual VUW website was listed by my security software as a malware site, so please don’t go there) “Vancouver University Worldwide is (1) a consortium of globally-dispersed constituent and affiliate member colleges and programs, and (2) conducts a collateral ‘external’ aggregate-learning degrees process.” Translated: (1) you can’t really track us down if you’re looking for a refund, and (2) we print degrees.
Westmore University – The official website looks a free blog site, with nothing very much on it. Domain is for sale, if you’re interested. The cost of a degree ranges from $400 for a high school degree to $1500 for a PhD. Imagine: for the cost of paying a few years of (new) HDB taxes, you get to be called “Doctor”.
Lee Community College – The crowning glory. This is the shop that you pass by everytime you want to take a coffee break at Telok Ayer Food Market. Specializing in “psychology” and “counselling”, it offers external degree courses despite the small problem of MOE not allowing them to do so. MOE said they will “investigate”. You gotta feel sorry for the China students who plonked down US$20K for these soon-to-be-shut-down course programs.

"Dr" (bogus?) Frederick Toke, boss of Lee Community College, 
a Singapore diploma mill (source)

"Dr" (bogus?) Frederick Toke, boss of Lee Community College,
a Singapore diploma mill (source)

Fred Toke lecturing at Lee Community College

Dr Frederick Toke, PsyD, is the Founder and President of  Lee Community College  and an Adjunct Clinical Supervisor at National Institute of Education (NTU) Psychological Academic Studies Group. He holds a Doctor of Psychology degree with the American University, ...


(ed. The American University in Washington, DC does not appear to offer a PsyD (Doctor of Psy
chology) program [see here and here]. Toke's doctorate is therefore suspect. His status as a "qualified psychologist" is likewise doubtful.

Alternatively, Toke's PsyD could have been granted by American University for Humanities (AUH), formerly named American University of Hawaii (AUH), the diploma mill in whose name Toke's Lee Community College  issued its bogus degrees for a handsome profit. 

In this case, Toke's use of "the American University", which properly refers to American University in Washington, DC, is dishonest and deceptive. )

... and is a member of the American Counselling Association and serves as the Secretary of Psychotherapy Association of Singapore. Author of several life skills books, he also lectures in counselling programmes and holds public talks/seminars and counsels the community. 

Dr Toke is a Certified Trainer of Critical Incident Stress Management as well as a Licensed Marriage Solemnizer with ROM. He is also regularly featured on 938LIVE, CNBC, Channel NewsAsia, The Straits Times and local periodicals


"Dr Fred Toke is both a preacher of the word and a qualified Psychologist.  He does both well and the testimonies of those whose lives he has blest continue to multiply.  I strongly support his ministry especially for the forgotten and hurting members of the Body of Christ. 

- Rev Malcolm Tan
Pastor-In-Charge - Barker Road Methodist Church  (source)


"Rev. (Dr) Frederick Toke, PsyD, an ordained minister with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), USA, is the founding pastor of Mount Olives Church of God, Singapore."(here) 

"Rev" "Dr" Frederick Toke was listed as the senior pastor of Mount Olives Church of God (independent church, founded in 1996) in a 2005 Singapore church directory. Strangely the church gave no street address, and provided only an Ang Mo Kio PO Box. 

Mount Olives Church of God appears to meet at an office of Fred Toke's Lee Community College. However, Fred Toke is not listed as a (senior) pastor of the church (here).

It is all rather intriguing.

Make dodgy degrees illegal in Singapore

Straits Times, Dec 7, 2009 (source)

SINGAPORE should make it illegal to buy fake degrees and use them to seek jobs or business.

At the very least, it should follow the example of Oregon in the United States, which has laws requiring graduates from all unaccredited institutions to declare the status of their qualifications on their CVs and business cards.

I bring this up in light of recent articles in this newspaper highlighting the proliferation of degree mills and unaccredited, even bogus, institutions here.

For a little red dot, Singapore appears six times on a list of unaccredited institutions and degree mills compiled by Oregon's Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA). The six Singaporean institutions named are Cranston University, Templeton University, Trident University of Technology, Vancouver University Worldwide, Westmore University and Lee Community College.

ODA's office administrator, Mr Alan Contreras, said Singapore never used to make the dubious list. It does so now because the authorities opened the door to private post-secondary education without first establishing a strict oversight system.

'Your government has allowed its name to be used inappropriately,' said Mr Contreras, a plain-speaking man.

'Without enforcement of standards by the government, anything goes. This is why the reputation of degrees issued in Singapore is falling.'

His remarks may chafe but the authorities here should pay heed if we are to retain Singapore's position as a thriving educational hub that attracts the best global talent.

There is another reason why new regulations need to be instituted: more and more Singaporeans and foreigners are using these unaccredited or bogus degrees to land jobs and market their businesses.

In an expose last year (see Clemen Chiang and others exposed, below), The Straits Times revealed that many Singaporean professionals - including prominent businessmen, insurance executives, investment advisers and even teachers - try to hoodwink employers and the public by touting qualifications from degree mills or substandard institutions.

Not surprisingly, some prominent people quietly dropped the 'Dr' titles from their business cards soon after the ST articles appeared. But some were only persuaded to do so after the much publicised case of Clemen Chiang, who used to make a lucrative living running weekend seminars on options trading.

When they discovered that his PhD was an unaccredited one from Preston University, a group of 48 of his course participants sued him for a refund of their fees in October last year. The court found him guilty of misrepresentation and ordered him to refund the fees - totalling $176,583. Another 400 of his students have since filed claims with the Small Claims Tribunal.

His appeal against the ruling for the first group of students was dismissed last week by the High Court. (Details on Clemen Chiang's lawsuit: here)

Mr Chiang maintained that he should be allowed to use his PhD qualifications as he had done academic work - a thesis on options trading. ... (continue below @@)


"Dr" Clemen Chiang, the unrepentant con artist from Singapore

"Dr" Clemen Chiang is still using his bogus "Dr" to swindle the gullible with his options trading seminar, offered by the company "Results Plus International" in Bangkok, Thailand. (here)

Diner en Blanc fiasco

Clemen Chiang was in the spotlight again in August 2012 when he, being a chief Singapore organizer of Diner en Blanc ("dinner in white", a "pop-up" smart mob event with an alfresco dining crowd in formal white attire), decided to ban local food, though the global headquarters had imposed no such rule. 

Ham-handedly, the Singapore organizers further demanded an invited guest's unfavorable blogpost concerning the ban be removed, and then uninvited him. 

Following an online storm of protest, the headquarters retracted all such stupid local decisions, and apologized unreservedly. 

Clemen Chiang's shady past as a snake oil salesman, peddling his option trading advice with a fake PhD, came into focus once more as a result.  (details here)

Bogus "Dr" Clemen Chiang, Singapore con artist

Bogus "Dr" Clemen Chiang, Singapore con artist

"Dr" Clemen Chiang peddling snake oil in Indonesia

Dr. Chiang graduated in Civil Engineering from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He received a Master of Business Administration Degree conferred by the University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA. He also completed a PhD thesis entitled “Options Trading As An Income Strategy For Financial Freedom – An Action Research Approach” with Preston University, Wyoming, USA.  [Preston University is a degree mill. See here and here.]

Dr. Chiang has been featured in CNBC Market Watch, Channel News Asia Money Mind, Radio 938 Live The Breakfast Club, The Business Times CEO's Notebook, The Sunday Times The Savvy Investor, and Today Investor Profile. The Star in Malaysia featured Dr. Chiang as The Professional's Professional.

Dr. Chiang is a regular contributor to The Business Times. He has written articles on “The Psycho of Good Investing”, “Towards Wealth Creation” and “How to Maximize Returns”.



(@@ continued from above)

...  That is also the argument of several counselling psychology graduates from the American University for Humanities (AUH) who studied for their degrees at a private school here, Lee Community College.

The school had sought approval from the Ministry of Education (MOE) for the course which was offered by the university - located, surprisingly, not in the US but in Tbilisi, Georgia. Although MOE did not approve the application, the college continued to run the course.

In a letter published on the school's website, 27 graduates from Lee Community College complained that The Straits Times in its article last week had not taken into account the many hours of hard work they put in to attain their degrees.

That may be so. But the fact still remains: the course was not approved by the authorities here.

While MOE did not give reasons for its rejection, it is worth noting that AUH's two campuses in the US are both currently not accredited in the country.

Accreditation exists for a reason. It is a formal recognition, or guarantee, that a university meets certain standards. And it has become even more important today, when bogus and substandard institutions are flourishing. The ease with which degree mills can be set up and market themselves on the Internet does not help.

In the US, accreditation is a rigorous process. To pass muster, universities must be able to demonstrate a clear sense of purpose, and show that they have the resources and ability to achieve their aims. Their facilities should be excellent, and their staff must be well qualified.

It is important that standards are maintained in academia. If not, how will we be able to tell the quack from the expert, the ones with the requisite skills and knowledge from those without?

One Lee Community College student argued that it was not that important for counsellors to have accredited degrees. After all, they are not psychiatrists.

But we would not see a doctor without a proper degree, or engage an architect without the proper qualifications, so why should we make an exception with counsellors?

To bolster her case, the student trotted out that old urban myth about Harvard University being unaccredited.

'I was told by one of my lecturers that even Harvard University is not accredited. The university is so confident of its standards that it refuses to subject itself to US accreditation. Perhaps it is the same for AUH,' she said.

She should have verified her statement, just as she should have checked on the approval status of the degree course offered through Lee Community College. Not only is Harvard University accredited, it has been accredited since 1929 by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Its last review was in 1997.

This year it is due for another reaccreditation. Even Harvard is not above wanting to subject itself to accreditation.

Clemen Chiang and others exposed

Straits Times, Aug 29, 2008 (source)

AT LEAST 218 people, mostly Singaporeans, are proudly flaunting degrees, MBAs and doctorates from a dozen degree mills, including Preston University, Wisconsin International University, Paramount University of Technology, Kennedy-Western University and Rochville University.

This was uncovered by Straits Times checks on the Internet and trade publications, to find out how widespread the use of bogus qualifications is here.

Most of them are males and predominantly businessmen, professional trainers, private school lecturers and financial consultants.

The majority have basic diplomas and in some cases, degrees from bona fide universities, but quote masters or PhDs from bogus institutions to bolster their credentials.

A few such as Expressions International founder Theresa Chew, who has a honorary doctorate from Kennedy-Western University, and Breadtalk founder Mr George Quek Meng Tong, who has an honorary business doctorate from the Wisconsin International University, add the words Honoris Causa (Latin for a token of respect or honour) on their namecards, to indicate that it is an honorary degree.

But worryingly, an increasingly long list of private school lecturers and financial consultants openly cite their bought doctorates and masters' degrees, in their curriculum vitae and client pitches.

A typical example is Be-Mad, a company at Scotts Road, that trains human resource professionals. Its chief executive officer 'Dr' David Ong Kah Seng and two of his associates, 'Dr' Ng Sin Keh and Mr Yeo Thiang Swee, have degrees from Rochville University, Preston University and Atlantic International University, which are all commonly referred to as diploma mills in the United States.

On its website, Be-Mad consultancy boasts that its long list of clients includes ministries, banks and educational institutions.

Yet another two successful businessmen with questionable qualifications are options trading expert 'Dr' Clemen Chiang, a Nanyang Technological University graduate, who runs courses through Freely Business School at North Bridge Road and 'Dr' T. Chandroo who runs a chain of 60 Montessori kindergartens here and abroad. Both of them have doctorates from Preston University, classified as a degree mill in the US.

Why do these successful businessmen who have demonstrated expertise in an area resort to using degrees from unaccredited institutions?

After all, resume detectives say such bogus degrees are a 'ticking time bomb', which may burnish your CV for now, but sooner or later blow up in your face.

The Straits Times put the question to 'Drs' Ong, Chiang and Chandroo.

Mr Ong claimed that his alma mater Rochville University was a reputed one and claimed to have worked on a thesis for 18 months on behavioural sciences.

Mr Chandroo's secretary said he was 'too busy' to answer e-mails or calls from The Straits Times over the past month.

Mr Chiang, known to be an astute entrepreneur who set up Freely Business School and is widely quoted in the local press on options trading, admits that he was 'not so smart' when he signed up for an online doctorate programme from Preston University a few years ago.

The NTU engineering graduate said he wanted to complete a PhD in extra quick time and found out about Preston University through the Internet. And because it was listed as a partner of a private school here licensed by the Education Ministry, he thought it was an accredited institution.

He suggested a thesis topic on options trading which was accepted by the university faculty in Wyoming, US. He researched the topic and submitted his thesis within 16 months and was granted a PhD. It cost him all of S$18,000 in fees.

It was only later that he realised that Preston was not accredited in the US.

Mr Chiang sheepishly admits that he continues to use his doctorate as it helps to pave the way in business. Besides, he reasons: 'I did write a thesis for it.'

But he added: 'But I am thinking of dropping my doctorate title altogether until I complete the current PhD I am working on with the University of South Australia.'

[ed.  "Dr" Clemen Chiang is still using his bogus "Dr" to swindle the gullible with his options trading seminar, offered by the company "Results Plus International" in Bangkok, Thailand. (see above for details) ]


"Dr" (bogus) George Quek Meng Tong, founder of Breadtalk

When bakery chain BreadTalk's boss, Mr George Quek, was conferred an honorary business doctorate by the Wisconsin International University, he hosted a glitzy event at Shangri-La Hotel's Tower Ballroom.

'I did not do it to boast how clever I am, or because of a lack of education in the past which I'm hoping to make up for. 'I took it as a personal boost to encourage myself after all my hard work over the years, and to thank my friends for their support,' says the O-level holder in Mandarin.

               (see More doctors in SME than in SMA below)

Apparently "Dr" George Quek Meng Tong is vain enough to still, in 2012, flaunt his bogus doctorate which he admits is an honorary (bought) Doctorate in Business Administration from the diploma mill Wisconsin International University, USA.   (source


" Dr" (bogus?) T Chandroo, CEO Modern Montessori International (MMI) 
"Dr" Chandroo holds two doctorate degrees – a DBA from Southern Cross University (Australia) and a PhD from (the degree mill) Preston University (U.S.A.) – in addition to an MBA (East London University, U.K.) and FCIM (Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, U.K.).  (source)


Theresa Chew 

"Dr" Theresa Chew, founder of wellness chain Expressions International

Theresa Chew declared bankrupt
The Straits Times, May 13, 2011 (source1, source2 in Chinese)

Theresa Chew (赵陈秀珍), 51 (in May 2011), founded Expressions International in 1989. It currently runs five outlets in Singapore offering beauty, slimming and spa services.

In 2006, she and her husband David Chew (赵达荣) set up the holding company, Expressions International Holdings (EIH).
The legal woes stemmed from a private placement exercise in 2006, in which Mr and Mrs Chew sold shares in EIH to 37 individuals and companies.

The couple held 72.5 per cent of the shares, the 37 held 24.5 per cent, and the rest was held by other minority shareholders.
But later, the 37 shareholders wanted to sell their stake back to the couple.
In May 2008, the Chews agreed to buy back these shares for a total of $2.9 million to be paid in six instalments, starting from June that year and with the final instalment due in May 2010.
After paying $1.16 million, or 40 per cent of the sum, the Chews defaulted on payment due to the financial crisis in 2009.
The 37 shareholders then started legal action against the Chews and in December 2009, obtained a summary judgment against them for $1.8 million.
Two of the shareholders started bankruptcy proceedings against the Chews, which led to the couple being declared bankrupt on June 10, 2010.
[ In May 2011, Mr Chiu Khai Weng, Theresa Chew's brother-in-law, won $1.5 million in a legal battle against 37 shareholders of wellness chain, Expressions International Holdings' (EIH). (Details here) ]

Mrs Theresa Chew, founder of Expressions International, the slimming, beauty and spa chain, received not one but two honorary doctorates from Kennedy-Western University and the University of Hawaii [ed. University of Hawaii system is the bona fide Hawaii public university system. Could her honorary doctorate be in fact from Honolulu University, a degree mill?] in 1999.

The O-level holder says: 'It was very meaningful to me because my parents could not afford to send me for tertiary education. I felt I had brought glory to my family. My mother, especially, was very proud that one of her children not only got a degree but also a doctorate.'

She celebrated in style with a gala dinner of 20 tables at Chijmes - the norm for most entrepreneur doctorate holders, who throw convocation parties which are more lavish than most Chinese weddings here.  

                 (see More doctors in SME than in SMA below)
In better days (c. 2008) ...
Co-founder and CEO of Expressions International, Dr Theresa Chew received her first wellness training in the Wellness Principal in the US. Since then she has been awarded two honorary doctorates for her success in this field. She also actively involves herself in numerous Spa conferences. Her contributions and achievement made her the first Asian woman Director of International Spa and Fitness Association, US from 1995 to 1998. Dr Theresa Chew is also the founding member of Singapore Spa Association (SAS) and is currently serving as the President of the Spa and Wellness Association (Singapore).
Talking to Dr. Theresa Chew, one realizes quickly that almost everything she says and does is closely intertwined with her mission in life. Her success in losing weight in 1989 prompted her to start her slimming empire. As a child Dr. Chew was overweight and when she went to Broadrick Secondary School, she was determined to get back in shape. She went on a diet by skipping recess every day and she had transformed herself within a year. She also adopted the name Theresa, after Taiwanese songbird Teresa Teng, who was her idol.
She is one of the most recognizable names in the slimming, wellness, spa and beauty industry. From just one outlet in 1990, there are now 10 wholly-owned Expressions wellness studios and spas in Singapore and eight franchised outlets in Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and Pakistan. The company has an annual turnover of about $12 million.  (source)


More doctors in SME than in SMA

A joke making the rounds is that there are now more doctors in the SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) than in the SMA (Singapore Medical Association). Why is there a proliferation of honorary doctorates among businessmen? Our senior correspondent goes on the paper chase.

by Susan Long, 
The Straits Times  (June 2002, source)

IT USED to be the S-Class Mercedes Benz. But these days, the honorary doctorate has become the ubiquitous, must-have accoutrement for Singapore's successful entrepreneurs.

Never mind if they have no formal education. Some are school dropouts. Some break into a sweat stringing a sentence in English. Others tell you sheepishly they have never stepped onto a campus.

But walk into the offices of their public-listed companies, and you can see prominently framed pictures of themselves wearing a mortar board and a grin, next to a gilded certificate that proclaims: Doctor Of Philosophy in Business Administration, Honoris Causa (Latin for a token of respect or honour).

Call their offices and their secretaries chirp: 'Dr Tan is in a meeting, would you like to leave a message?' Their freshly minted honorific is proudly printed on all their correspondence, business cards and company brochures.

Almost everyone on the 15-member executive committee of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) is an honorary PhD. There is a joke making the rounds that there are more doctors in the SMEs today than there are in the SMA (Singapore Medical Association).

The American institutions conferring doctorates on them are mainly obscure and unaccredited by the United States Department of Education.

Some such as Kennedy-Western University are virtual universities which exist only in cyberspace. Another, the Wisconsin International University, has campuses only in Estonia and Ukraine. All e-mail inquiries by Insight to their offices elicited no reply.

Despite the dubiousness of these institutions, the recipients interviewed by Insight say they do not think that this has tainted the honour bestowed upon them. Many entrepreneurs say they accepted the degree scroll because of the validation and vindication it affords them.

Mrs Theresa Chew, founder of Expressions International, the slimming, beauty and spa chain, received not one but two honorary doctorates from Kennedy-Western University and the University of Hawaii in 1999.

The O-level holder says: 'It was very meaningful to me because my parents could not afford to send me for tertiary education. I felt I had brought glory to my family. My mother, especially, was very proud that one of her children not only got a degree but also a doctorate.'

She celebrated in style with a gala dinner of 20 tables at Chijmes - the norm for most entrepreneur doctorate holders, who throw convocation parties which are more lavish than most Chinese weddings here.

When bakery chain BreadTalk's boss, Mr George Quek, was conferred an honorary business doctorate by the Wisconsin International University last month, he hosted a glitzy event at Shangri-La Hotel's Tower Ballroom.

'I did not do it to boast how clever I am, or because of a lack of education in the past which I'm hoping to make up for. 'I took it as a personal boost to encourage myself after all my hard work over the years, and to thank my friends for their support,' says the O-level holder in Mandarin.

Dennis Wee Realty founder Dennis Wee Chuan Peng says he took up an honorary doctorate from Kennedy-Western University two years ago for professional rather than personal reasons.

'I find that it is good for my company's status. To me, it represents a PhD in results and fits perfectly with my company's ideology of being results-oriented,' says the Secondary 2 dropout.

[ed. "I was conferred the title of Honorary Doctor of Business by Kennedy-Western University, USA in 1999. That was a big deal as I was only a Secondary 2 dropout, and yet I received my PhD."  said Dennis Wee Chuan Peng. (source)

Dennis Wee seems to be stupid enough to believe the scam, taking great pride in a worthless degree. Thus he revealed himself as verily more of a Secondary 2 dropout than a PhD. ]

Other businessmen approached by Insight say they are 'too embarrassed' to be quoted when asked about their doctorates.

One prominent entrepreneur behind a newly listed company, who would only give his views incognito, says that he accepted a Kennedy-Western honorary doctorate two years ago because he mistakenly thought it was a 'rare honour' and that the 'special recognition' would aid his company's IPO listing process.

'It seemed pretty genuine, no harm accepting it, and it's rude to reject it,' says the business administration degree holder.

But to his horror, he realised just how 'common' it was when he attended an ASME meeting recently and observed the profusion of doctorate-holders there.

Now, he has remorsefully shelved the scroll at the bottom of a deep drawer.


THE only awkward moment Mrs Chew and others admit facing is when business contacts ask point-blank which university they hail from. 'Then I am very honest and tell them my doctorate is not because of tertiary education but given in recognition of my business achievements,' she says. 'But to be honest, no one has ever asked me if I bought it.'

In a world where credentials and first impressions count, she says it certainly helps to pave the way in business when she is introduced as 'Doctor' at meetings.

And that is the seductive pitch of the two representative offices of the universities here, Growth Training International, headed by Dr Tan Khian Seng, and the Altron Education Group, led by Dr John Lim.

They usually approach the entrepreneurs when they have attained some level of social prominence or when their companies are on the brink of going public - through a phone call or letter.

The gilded and embossed letter typically starts, 'You have been selected as a potentially qualified candidate to receive an Honorary Doctorate', and goes on to say that the institution has been 'admiring' the entrepreneur's business acumen and company's progress over the years.

As one entrepreneur who was wooed last year but resisted, puts it: 'This approach is very appealing to the ego because essentially, what most businessmen crave is social recognition.'

It hits their soft spot squarely, especially during the Sesdaq listing process - that is when they face public scrutiny and feel their lack of education most keenly.

Added to that, Mr Ning de Guzman, an adjunct professor on entrepreneurship at the Manila-based Asian Institute of Management, observes that education is a status symbol in Asia. 'No matter how successful most entrepreneurs are, most have a hidden longing to have a diploma to hang on the wall, to prove to others that they have the same mental aptitude as their classmates who graduated successfully,' he notes.

But status symbols are not cheap. In the course of a telephone conversation between the agent and entrepreneur, the delicate matter of a 'small donation' or 'honorarium' is eventually broached.

Most recipients are tight-lipped about how much they paid. It is understood that the asking price used to be $5,000 but climbed to $12,000 in 2000. Since then, as more entrepreneurs recommended their high-rolling friends, the average price of an honorarium has soared.

A well-known IPO king, who was offered a Wisconsin International University business doctorate last year, agrees to spill the beans but requests that his name be withheld.

Initially, he says, he offered an honorarium of $100,000 but was told by the Altron Education Group that the minimum rate was $120,000.

'They were very straightforward when talking about the quantum. They even showed me how much some of the more loaded entrepreneurs paid for their doctorates - which ran up to the high six figures! They definitely know whether you can afford it before they gun you down,' he lets on with a laugh.

This sum, he continues, excludes the cost of a pair of first-class tickets to fly in the university's dean and his wife from the US, putting them up in a hotel here for a week and taking care of their meals and other expenses, which add up to another estimated $35,000.

But if there are two 'graduands' holding convocation dinners within the same week, they get to split the bill. All these, of course, does not include the cost of holding your own posh celebratory dinner, which is 'extra'.

In the end, deterred by the staggering price tag, he aborted plans to become a 'Dr' and opted to stay a 'Mr'.

'They did try to persuade me. I declined and it shocked them. I decided I don't need this to move around. At the end of the day, it's your company that counts. If your business is not successful, a title will only make you look silly,' he says.

He was later told that his doctorate had gone to a former MP but that he could revisit the offer anytime.

To his amusement, he read in the newspapers in September 2001 that former Senior Parliamentary Secretary Ho Kah Leong was conferred an honorary arts doctorate by the Wisconsin International University for his accomplishments in politics and the arts.


ALTRON'S Dr Lim, which represents the Wisconsin International University, did not return Insight's calls despite repeated attempts to reach him.

As for Dr Tan Khian Seng, chief executive officer of Growth Training International, which represents Kennedy-Western University and Honolulu University here, he defends the honorarium deal stoutly and says paying is not tantamount to 'buying' a degree.

'In life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. There are costs involved in the entire conferment exercise, such as flying the university's president over here from the US, to administrative and other costs.

'Each conferee understands that this is a transaction and does so willingly to defray expenses, as well as help with some social causes,' he says, adding that each university sets its own quantum and is involved in different social causes, such as breast cancer research or peacekeeping activities with the United Nations.

However, he takes pains to point out that the doctorates are by no means bestowed indiscriminately. He says he follows a 'rigorous selection process' in which he assesses whether the individual has a sterling career record, the creative ability to generate new ideas, how he handles a crisis and whether he gives back to society.

He adds that he interviews them several times before submitting their nominations to the board of the university in the US.

When asked if there is a quota for the number of doctorates given out each year, he says that is determined by each university and is confidential. But he says he generally 'targets' 15 local entrepreneurs each year.

Has any nominee ever been rejected by the university board? Only one, he says, but mainly because the candidate 'refused to submit actual documents of his achievements'.

Insight estimates that at least 15 business people receive honorary doctorates here each year.

To those who earn their doctorates the hard way, this trend is seen as 'under-the-table buying of degrees'.

Dr Lee Chun Wah of the Nanyang Technological University's School of Communication Studies, who slogged for four years at Ohio University to get his PhD, minces no words.

'In my view, businessmen who purchase honorary degrees are doing themselves a big disgrace. They should understand the adage: No effort, no gain.'

But the number of commercially-bought credentials looks set to rise, as long as more people can afford the 'fees', says the NeXT Career Consulting managing director, Mr Paul Heng. He observes that these businessmen have probably reached the 'pinnacle', according to US psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

'Since they already have everything else, their ego needs to take centrestage. The quickest way to possess a 'Dr' in front of their names is to pay for it,' he reasons. 'After all, it costs less than yet another luxury car.'

The Bogus Degrees Hall of Shame

MEET the honorary PhD holders in the business fraternity:

Mrs Theresa Chew, president and CEO of Expressions International
Ms Diana Young, president and chief executive of Mil-Com Aerospace
Ms Dora Hoan, CEO of Best World International
Mrs Nanz Chong-Komo, managing director of One.99 shop
Mr Dennis Wee, managing director of Dennis Wee Realty
Mr David Low, managing director of Futuristic Image Builder
Mr Tommie Goh, chairman of 2G Capital
Mr Derek Goh, Serial System CEO
Mr Andrew Tjoe, chief executive of Tung Lok Restaurants
Mr Felix Ong, chairman of Seksun Corporation
Mr Kenny Yap  叶金利, managing director of Qian Hu Corporation  (Fisheries,千湖集团)

"Dr" Kenny Yap  叶金利, managing director of Qian Hu Corporation  (Fisheries,千湖集团) 

Mr Robert Yap, YCH Group CEO
Mr George Quek, managing director of BreadTalk
Mr Ron Sim, CEO and chairman of Osim International
Mr Lawrence Leow, CEO of Excalibur Asia Pacific

A rare honour from NUS

HOW does the National University of Singapore bestow an honorary doctorate?

According to NUS, conferment of such degrees is very rare. It is conferred only on 'individuals who have contributed to the advancement or dissemination of knowledge or rendered distinguished public service'. The selection is made by the NUS Senate.

Past recipients of NUS honorary doctorates include Fraser & Neave chairman Michael Fam (1986), former OCBC chairman Tan Chin Tuan (1993), Singapore Exchange chairman J.Y. Pillay (1996) and Chief Justice Yong Pung How (2001).


Singaporeans with bogus degrees

Straits Times, Aug 8, 2008 (source

A RETIRED secondary school teacher, two private school teachers, an IT manager, and two businessmen were among 36 names from Singapore on a list of people exposed in the United States for buying fake diplomas and degrees.

The 9,612 names were taken from computers seized as part of Operation Gold Seal (details here and here), a US Federal case that led to eight people pleading guilty to conspiracy to sell fake degrees from St Regis University and other fictional colleges based in rural Washington state.

The husband and wife ringleaders, Steven and Dixie Ellen Randock, have been sentenced to three years in prison.

Steven and Dixie Ellen Randock

The Spokane, Washington-based newspaper, The Spokesman Review, ran the full list of names on its website on July 28. Buyers had paid the degree mill US$250 to US$5,400 (S$350 to S$7,500) for bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as doctorates.

The full report, which stated names, the degrees bought, and in some cases, the names of the fictional universities, can be found at (ed. dead link)  

The following are some degree mill customers from Singapore (source):

(Probable surnames, when not placed in their customary order, are underlined; many bogus degree seekers don't know their first names from their last.)

mentioned in this news report (see below):

*Ferguson, Joe K Singapore BA St. Lourdes University 
  --  Ferguson, Joseph Kent Singapore MA St. Lourdes University 
*Khoon, Tan Tee [Tan Tee Khoon] Singapore MDiv 
*David, Tan Leng Huat Singapore BBA 
*Samuel, David Nelson Singapore BA 

Full professorships:

*Lan, Adelene Cheong Siew Singapore ProfFull (Full professorship)
*Chai, Cheng Sheng Singapore ProfFull (Full Professor) InTech University of Engineering & Science 



*Meng, Tee Wee Singapore PhD 
*Ramasamy, Ra Arjunan Singapore PhD St. Regis University 
*Duquesne, StéPhane Pierre Singapore PhD 
  --  Duquesne, Stephane Pierre Marcel Singapore PhD 
*Keong, See Soon (Raymond) Singapore PhD 

[Raymond See Soon Keong is the boss of Omega International College, formerly named Omega Commercial School, 108 Middle Rd #03-01/02  and Blk 134, Jurong East St 13 #03-309L/309M, Singapore. The school's website is unsafe to visit, containing malicious software. Some information is available here.]

*Gwee, Jeremy Singapore PhD
*Thiam, Yeo Chin Singapore PhD
*Tan, Jonathan Singapore PhD

*Wende, Clarence Du Singapore DBA 

Master's degrees

*Oh, Patrick Boon Sai Singapore MA
  --  Patrick Oh Boon Sai Singapore MA 
*Seng, Lee Boon Singapore MA
*Ramachandran, Appaswamy Singapore MBA 
*Wai, Kwok Yau Singapore MBA 

Bachelor's degrees

*Ng, Kwee Huat Singapore BBA
*Kok, Yau Wia Singapore BBA 
*Kiong, Goh Seng Singapore BBA 
*Huat, Ng Kwee Singapore BBA  
*Poh, Andrew Tan Thian Singapore BBA Northwest United University 
^Wong, Janice W Singapore BBA Northwest United University 

*Lee, Wai Khuen Singapore BS 
*Ismail, Hady Ruthman Singapore BS  

*Ching, Janet Tan Joon Singapore BS 
*Khuen, Lee Wai Singapore BS  
*Annamalai, Singaravelu Singapore BS InTech University of Engineering & Science 

*Kunju Hanifa, Sulikha Singapore BS InTech University of Engineering & Science 

*Fong , Christopher Kong Onn Singapore BA Bradford College 

*Samuel, Iris Regina Singapore BA  
*Christopher, Fong Kong Onn Singapore BA 
*Chow, Jaz Singapore BA 
*Hun, Teo Wee Singapore BA 


The following are among the defunct operations run by the St. Regis operators:

  • Al Qasim University (Pakistan)
  • All Saints American University (Liberia)
  • American Capital University
  • Americana University
  • Bangalore Inst of Science, Tech. and Mgt (India)
  • Capital American University (Liberia)
  • Center College of Executive & Professional Development (India)
  • Colony University (Liberia)
  • Hampton Bay University
  • Hartland University
  • InTech University (Liberia)
  • James Monroe University (Liberia, operated from Washington, Idaho and Arizona)
  • Miranda International University (Tennessee, Washington, and Seborga, Italy)
  • Nation State University
  • New Manhattan University
  • North United University
  • Panama Canal University
  • Port Rhode University
  • Robertstown University (Liberia, operated from Washington state, Idaho and Arizona)
  • St. Lourdes University
  • St. Regis University
  • St. Renoir University
  • St. Thomas Institute (India)
  • Stanley State University
  • Synergystics (ODA notes it "may" be connected)
  • University College for Advanced Studies (India)
  • Van Ives University
  • West Coast University (Panama, Western Australia, UK)

The fake schools created by Steven and Dixie Ellen Randock included Saint Regis University, James Monroe University, Robertstown University, Holy Acclaim University, Ameritech University, Fort Young University, Pan America University, All Saints American University, American Capital University, Blackstone University, Capital America University, Hampton Bay University, Hartland University, Intech University, Nation State University, New Manhattan University and Graduate Institute, North United University, Port Rhode University, St. Lourdes University, Saint Renoir University, Stanley State Graduate University, Van Ives University, West American University, International MBA Institute, Apollo Certification Institute, James Monroe High School, Liberty Academy Preparatory High School, Trinity Christian High School, Mission College Preparatory High School, and Bradford Academy College Preparatory High School. However, the conspirators also sold counterfeit diplomas and academic products purporting to be from legitimate academic institutions, such as the University of Maryland, George Washington University, Missouri University, and Texas A&M University.
    The following is the "accreditation mill" run by the Saint Regis University operators:  Distance Education Council
(Wikipedia on St Regis University and other connected degree mills: here)


The Straits Times contacted more than a dozen of those on the list and confirmed that six had bought the degrees. Four of the six had listed the degrees in their resumes.

Two admitted they had degrees from the listed universities but claimed they were unaware that these were degree mills.

The Education Ministry said it will investigate the case of the teacher to establish if any offence has been committed. But it said preliminary checks show that the teacher, who was recruited as a non-graduate teacher, had not used the 'degree' in question for placement.

MOE said the teacher is currently re-employed as a non-graduate contract adjunct teacher.

Businessman David Tan Leng Huat said he had merely enquired about a degree from St Regis University but had not paid anything.

Private school teacher David Nelson Samuel said he paid more than S$4,000 for a BA from St Regis University, but only found out later that it was unrecognised.

Dr Tan Tee Khoon, a Christian author and head of Knight Frank Property Network, said he is not the Tan Tee Khoon named for having bought a Master's in Divinity.

Dr Tan, who has a PhD in marketing from Templeton University, New York, said he was 'aggrieved' when he heard someone with his name was on the list.

  (More on Tan Tee Khoon below)

A Mr Joseph Ferguson was listed as a trainer at the Asian Life Skills Centre at North Bridge Road which runs courses for English Language teachers. His credentials include a BA (Business) and MA (Education) from St Lourdes University, one of the exposed degree mills.

But the centre's managing director Joseph Chee said the American had left the centre last year and expressed surprise at his fake credentials.


Joseph Ferguson

Joseph Ferguson is a lecturer at STI Education, a private teacher training school in Yangon, Myanmar.

Ferguson has been teaching both ESL (English as a Second Language) and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) for some 5 years in Singapore. His classes have included basic English Lessons (Speaking, Reading, Writing, Listening), IELTS and TOEFL preparation courses, grammar refreshment courses and private tuition for primary and secondary students. His students have come from all over Asia, Russia and even Egypt. (source1, source2)


Joseph Ferguson (Apr 2008?) on a jobs website  (source)

Experienced ESL teacher and ESL teacher trainer, looking for work in Taiwan. 

I am an American currently living in Singapore. I've been to Taiwan several times and have fallen in love with the culture there. 

Joe Ferguson Blk 150 Hougang Str 11, #04-156 Singapore 530150


2005 - Present, Master Trainer, Asian Life Skills 

It is my responsibility to make sure the students are prepared to teach English upon completion of the course, as well as to make sure the other trainers/lecturers are providing the correct information. I also travel around Asia to conduct seminars and workshops with other English teachers to help upgrade their skills. 

2007 - Present, Private English Tutor, JoinUs Language Center 

It is my duties to help both Singaporean and Foreign students to work with the English language. Often times, preparing them for exams. I prepare my own materials for students, as well and individualize each lesson. 

2007 - Present TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Teacher Trainer, The Teacher Trainer College 

I work part time as a TESOL trainer. It is my responsibility to prepare students for their role as an ESL teacher.

2007 - Present Private English Tutor, Interlang 

I work part time with this company giving private tuition to Foreign students. The students are adult business men and women. I prepare my own materials for students, as well and individualize each lesson. 

2003 - 2005 English Teacher, Handbridge Language School (Singapore)

As an English Teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure that the students get an exceptional education. It is my task to create the lesson plans and produce interesting and exciting lessons that instill the skills they need to survive in an English speaking environment. 

2001 - 2003 English Teacher, Dimensions Language Centre (Singapore)

Working as an English teacher with Dimensions, I performed the same duties as I performed with Handbridge Language School 


1989 High School Diploma, Nauvoo-Colusa Jr.-Sr. High School (in Nauvoo, Illinois)

1999 Bachelor of Arts in Business, Saint Lourdes University 

2001 Master of Arts in Education, Saint Lourdes University 

2001 Certificate in TESOL 


In 1988, I entered and won a medal in the Illinois State Congressional Art Competition. In 1995, I was recognized by the South Dakota Travel Board for outstanding guest service. In 1999, I received a Certificate of Achievement in Internet Proficiency through Gateway. 


Dr Tan Tee Khoon

Dr Tan Tee Khoon, a Christian author and head of Knight Frank Property Network, said he is not the Tan Tee Khoon named for having bought a Master's in Divinity.

Dr Tan, who has a PhD in marketing from Templeton University, New York, said he was 'aggrieved' when he heard someone with his name was on the list.


[ed. Templeton University, Middletown, New York is a shadowy outfit (with only a phone number and not even a PO Box), and certainly not a bona fide university. (Another diploma mill, Cranston University, also has a phone number in Middletown, New York. Is this a coindence? )

Templeton University, Singapore and Las Vegas, NV (Nevada), is a diploma mill, according to Oregon's Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA) [see above]. 

Tan Tee Khoon's PhD, whichever Templeton University it came from, certainly lacks any credibility.

"Dr" Tan is also a preacher of Agape Methodist Church and a Christian author, with a  doctorate of ministry from a degree mill, Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana [see below].

We might therefore reasonably assume that, contrary to his denial, he had bought a bogus MDiv as well. ]

"Dr" Tan Tee Khoon

Dr Tan Tee Khoon, CPD (Continuing Professional Development) Trainer and RES (Real Estate Salespersons) Lecturer, SAEA (Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies)

Dr Tan Tee Khoon is currently the Key Executive Officer and Managing Director of an estate agent that is part of an international property consultancy. He was formerly the Chief Executive Officer of SAEA during the period when industry consultations for the new real estate agency regulatory framework were called and remains a Board Director. He has been active in the real estate industry since 1990. He has worked in both public and private sectors, holding various senior positions in residential, property and project management sectors.

Among his credentials, Tee Khoon holds a Cert-in-REA, Bachelor of Science(Building) and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing. In addition, he studied business law and holds a doctorate in marketing (from the diploma mill Templeton University). He is a certified Business Planning Consultant and a member of the Singapore Institute of Surveyors & Valuers.  (source)


Dr Tan Tee Khoon was General Secretary and Associate General Secretary of the Fellowship of Evangelical Students from 2004 to 2011. He is now Managing Director of a subsidiary of an international real estate firm based in Singapore. 

Dr Tan first graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Building from the National University of Singapore in 1990. An alumnus of Oxford (ed. Oxford University? Oxford Business and Language School, Singapore?), he pursued (and obtained, I presume) a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pulpit Communication and Expository Preaching with Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana (a degree mill, unaccredited distance learning school), a program then validated by the University of Liverpool in 2002. He has also studied law and marketing with the University of London and state-approved International American University in Los Angeles. 

The youngest Local Preacher licensed by the Methodist Church in Singapore at the age of 19, Dr Tan has since enjoyed a regional preaching ministry in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. 

He is the author of 4 books, the most widely received being Living For His Majesty's Pleasure (2008), and the others being The Christ Difference (Jan 2012), The Pleasure of His Will (2007), Give as He Pleases (2007).



Dr Tan Tee Khoon is currently the General Secretary of the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) and a Local Preacher of The Methodist Church in Singapore. He was formerly on the Editorial Board of The Methodist Message, an official organ of The Methodist Church in Singapore. 

A popular Bible expositor and writer across denominational circles, Dr Tan holds his Doctor of Ministry in Pulpit Communication and Bible Exposition and a PhD in Marketing. Having worked more than 15 years in real estate consultancy with a prestigious international property company, Dr Tan dedicates his time now to preaching and teaching God's Word to Christian tertiary students in the universities and polytechnics. Dr Tan resides in Singapore with his wife, Li Peng, a freelance training consultant.

(source1, source2)

Dr Tan Tee Khoon spent 12 years in real estate before he became General Secretary of the Fellowship of Evangelical Students in 2005. Thereafter, he continued to be active in the marketplace by his involvement in the education, accreditation and ethical development of the estate agency profession.

A Local Preacher of Agape Methodist Church, Dr Tan speaks regularly at worship services and workshops on current issues affecting Christians today. He is a firm advocate of Christians being the royal priesthood at the marketplace where they have been called to build God's kingdom.

Dr Tan resides in Singapore with his wife, Li Peng, a freelance training consultant. He is also the author of the book, “Give As He Pleases”. (source)


Singapore's Brookes Business School offered fake Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) degrees

The Age (australia), June 18, 2009 (source)

RMIT University has been embroiled in a scam in which an Asian business school was selling fake degrees purporting to come from the Melbourne institution.

Dozens of students have been duped after signing up for a one-year course they thought would lead to an RMIT Bachelor of Business offered through the Brookes Business School, in Singapore.

Students paid up to $16,000 to graduate with what they thought was a legitimate qualification from an Australian institution.

However, RMIT insists it never had links to Brookes, and is now considering legal action.

"RMIT is extremely concerned about any misrepresentation and is currently considering all its legal options in relation to this matter," said Dr Madeleine Reeve, the university's pro-vice-chancellor, international and development.

University documents seen by The Age show Singapore's Ministry of Education was told about the problem as early as April 2007, when the university became aware that Brookes' website was making false representations about links to RMIT.

At the time, the university obtained a written undertaking from Brookes to remove all references to RMIT on its website and any other documentation, and inform students that there were no links between the two providers.

But from late last year, a number of Brookes students began contacting RMIT again: some to check the authenticity of their certificates, others to check if they were properly registered with the university.

However, in a bizarre twist, Brookes claims it only began offering the program because it was conned to do so by a man purporting to be an employee of RMIT's Vietnam campus.

The head of Brookes Business School, Ben Yap, told The Age that a man approached him two years ago and sold him a franchise to run RMIT degree programs.

He said Brookes — which also offers education programs from established universities in the US and Britain — believed it was providing a bona fide degree from RMIT.

He said the school has since worked to "contain the problem" by giving students refunds for their invalid degree, and had also offered to enrol them into other legitimate courses provided by Brookes.

"We didn't realise the degrees were not valid," Mr Yap said. "We were given all the proper documentation so there was no reason to doubt it. There was no intention to con anybody."

Brookes has asked Singapore police to investigate the matter. However, Dr Reeve categorically rejected the school's claim that it was duped by a university employee.

"RMIT has been provided with the name of the staff member allegedly involved, but there are no records of a man with that name being employed at RMIT Vietnam," she said.

The Singapore Education Ministry did not respond to questions from The Age about Brookes' registration, or what action, if any, was taken.


Singapore, July 14, 2009 (source)

Singapore's Education Ministry (MOE) has cancelled the registration of a private school that has been investigated for offering fake degrees from a well-known Australian university.

It is the first case this year of a school being stripped of its registration by the ministry.

MOE said this follows investigations by the secretariat of the pro-tem Council for Private Education (CPE) on Brookes Business School for contraventions of the Education Act.

The school has been accused by its students of peddling fake degrees from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) for as little as S$12,000.

MOE told Channel NewsAsia some 400 local and overseas students are affected by the closure. Some have already paid more than S$10,000 in deposits.

Most of the students whom Channel NewsAsia spoke to refused to appear on camera, but several of them said they already had doubts over the school's credibility.

Jonathan Ong, student at Brookes Business School, said: "I'm not surprised. Ever since I signed up with this school, there've been a lot of changes to their policies and the programme structures."

This is despite the fact that the school was registered with MOE and had Casetrust accreditation from the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).

Casetrust-endorsed schools receive certification for having good student welfare/protection practices and standards, such as clear fee policies, well-defined student redress practices and systems, a declared commitment to quality, and well-trained personnel.

According to CASE's website, the certification does not represent endorsement or accreditation of the quality of the courses offered.

Thevanathan Pillay, assistant director, CASE, said: "For those students who have completed their course and feel they've been given a fake certificate, they should actually go to court and sue the business."

MOE said the secretariat of the pro-tem CPE is working with various agencies and private education industry players to put in place measures to ensure that affected students have other avenues to complete their studies.

Students may approach the Association of Private Schools and Colleges (APSC) to be placed in another private education institution. For this purpose, students should be prepared to show proof that they are currently enrolled students of Brookes Business School.


Hundreds with fake degrees nabbed

Both Singaporeans and foreigners found out while applying for government passes

The Straits Times (Singapore)
9 August 2008 (source)

OVER 400 foreigners were caught last year for lying to the Manpower Ministry in their work pass applications, a fourfold increase from the 97 cases in 2005.

MOM did not give a breakdown but the majority are believed to have used fake or forged qualifications in applying for employment passes which are for highly qualified people, or S-Passes for semi-skilled workers.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority figures also point to a rising trend of workers using qualifications from degree mills, which are bogus universities that sell degrees for little or no study.

In the last two years, ICA caught 660 people, both foreigners and locals, lying in applications for immigration passes.

It could not give a breakdown but said many lied about their qualifications while trying to secure a dependent's pass, student visa or permanent resident pass.

Some of the locals caught had lied in the applications to be sponsors for foreigners seeking various immigration passes.

Both MOM and ICA said making false statements in the applications for work or immigration passes is a serious offence which carries heavy penalties, including fines and jail. Foreigners caught are also likely to be repatriated.

The ICA and MOM figures are just the tip of the iceberg, say job recruiters like People Worldwide Consulting and resume-screening companies such as IntegraScreen and First Advantage.

While most of those found out so far are foreigners, experts warn that more Singaporeans are also beefing up their resumes with fake or forged degrees.

One indication: The names of 36 people from Singapore showed up on a list of 9,612 people exposed in the United States recently for having bought fake diplomas and degrees.

First Advantage, a US-based company which checks claims made by job applicants, estimates that 12 per cent to 16 per cent of job seekers here are not entirely truthful in their CVs. Often, they inflate their academic achievements, current pay or responsibilities.

IntegraScreen, which does screening work for the immigration authorities in several countries in Asia and the Middle East, said about 5 per cent of the resumes they screen are found to be fake.

Its managing director, Mr John Baxter, said: 'The use of diploma mills is exploding as the Internet makes buying bogus degrees easier than ever before. More workers are buying these degrees because they're looking for an edge in the competitive job market in Singapore.'

Almost any degree, from aviation to zoology, can be purchased. All it takes is a credit card number and computer access.

Most degree mills charge between US$50 and US$5,000 (S$69 to S$6,900) for degrees at all levels. Often, buyers only have to fill up a form stating their work and life experiences and pay up.

Within a week, they are sent a professional-looking degree scroll and transcripts of fictional grades to show potential employers.

For an additional US$60, some degree mills offer laminated student identity cards, even though they have no physical campus.

Some even provide an after-sales service, with phone operators who will verify graduations and send transcripts to prospective employers who check.

Some go to the extent of offering fake degrees that look similar to those from such established universities as Harvard, Arizona State University or the University of Minnesota. Using high-tech equipment, the diplomas include watermarks and holographs.

The number of degree mills is not known, but Integra has compiled a list of over 500, with 90 per cent based in the US.

Mr John Bear, co-author of a book on degree mills, estimates that annual sales in fake degrees exceed US$500 million.

In Singapore, job recruiters say there are three groups of people who resort to using bogus degrees.

The first includes those who pay up to US$500 for undergraduate degrees and transcripts. These are non-graduates who use the fake qualifications to score a job, promotion or pay rise.

The second are consultants, trainers and private school lecturers who may have a first degree and some expertise in a particular area, but feel having a master's or PhD bolsters their credentials.

They are willing to pay between US$1,599 and US$10,000 for their bogus degrees.

The third group is made up of successful businessmen who fork out up to S$20,000 for honorary PhDs. They take care to indicate that these are honorary degrees, but like to be called 'Doctor'.

Mr David Leong, who heads PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said most people who buy their degrees are not victims, but intend to hoodwink employers or business clients.

'People who go online and order themselves a master's degree or PhD within a week know full well what they are doing,' he said.


Dennis Lee, Singapore's "Internet visionary", is creative with his résumé

May 29, 2001 (source)

First, it was high profile dishonesty of young Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li then came the story of bespectacled Singaporean, Dennis Lee.

In the space of a few years, the career of the boyish-looking Lee, 29, rocketed from mediocre to world class researcher on artificial intelligence.

It was built around several awards and fellowships from top US universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford, and co-authored several books on the subject.

He co-founded elipva, a high-tech start-up which received funding from the government-controlled Singapore Technologies.

In February Dennis was invited to speak at the Internet World Asia conference in Singapore and was nominated "Internet Visionary of the Year".

The local graduate (of Nanyang Technological University) also gained a popular following as moderator of Singapore's older and better-class chat-site,

Recently his glittering world came crashing down.

In a front-page expose, the Business Times revealed that most of his international awards and his books were a mirage, fakes that never happened.

After its own probe, an embarrassed elipva dismissed him as chief technology officer for fraud. abruptly went off the Net and its founders are trying to revive it.

The story shocked academic-worshipping Singaporeans.

This followed years of untruthful claim by son of Hong Kong's wealthiest family, Richard Li, that he was a computer science graduate of Stanford University. A newspaper exposed him and he apologised.


Malaysian degree mills

New Straits Times, July 27, 2012 (source)

VIPs are among 525 individuals who were believed to have spent thousands of ringgit to purchase fake academic scrolls from foreign universities.
Police revealed this yesterday after they raided two premises in Cheras and Subang Jaya on Wednesday and seized computers and paraphernalia believed to have been used in producing the false documents.
Selangor police chief Datuk Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah declined to reveal the names of the VIPs as the investigations were still going on.
He, however, said two individuals, a 37-year-old company director and a 36-year-old woman, have been detained to facilitate investigations.
Tun Hisan said the two suspects, who operated from an office in USJ 10, were believed to have raked in about RM5 million by selling fake academic scrolls since 2003.

"The company used agents and online advertising to sell the fake documents.
"Degrees were sold at RM6,500, Masters for RM8,500 and RM10,500 for PhD," he said, adding that the academic scrolls were offered to locals and foreigners.
Tun Hisan said the customers were offered fake academic qualifications in various fields including human resource and engineering from five universities.
The universities were the University of Rockhampton (United States), Harvey International University (United States), Cannington Brook University (United Kingdom), Glastonbury University (United Kingdom) and Charles Molnar University (Hungary).
Tun Hisan said once a significant number of fake graduates were registered, the company would then organise a grand convocation ceremony at prestigious hotels in the Klang Valley.
"The astonishing part of the scheme was that family members of the 'graduates' were invited as well.
"The 'graduates' would pose in their graduation robe, complete with mortar board while while the scroll was given to each of them by a man posing as a dean or chancellor of an university," Tun Hisan said, adding that customers were charged separately for the convocation ceremony.
Tun Hisan said the case is being investigated for cheating and the suspects have been remanded to facilitate investigations. He urged parents as well as companies who have hired these fake graduates to come forward and assist in the investigations.
"Since the company has been operating for the past nine years, we believe there are significant number of fake graduates who had used their qualifications to get jobs and we will track them down."


Wisconsin International University is a degree mill, admits its boss, John Buuck

by Vancouver Sun   
Sunday, 08 October 2006 (source)
While under investigation, Kingston College charges students an extra $3,180 to transfer credits to a U.S. school that lacks government accreditation 
A large private Canadian college, under investigation for offering degrees from an unaccredited British university, was also associating itself with an American organization that claims to have campuses in Estonia, Ghana and the Ukraine.
But the U.S. organization, which goes by the prestigious-sounding name of Wisconsin International University, doesn't have a campus in North America and says its degrees, for which students pay tens of thousands of dollars through Vancouver-based Kingston College, may not be accepted by other universities or employers.
Kingston, which is part of a Canadian education enterprise called Kingston Education Group, is under investigation by B.C.'s Private Career Training Institutions Agency, which cancelled the college's registration last week. That was in the wake of complaints from a number of students from India who said they had not received degrees the college was offering from the "American University in London."
AUL, it turns out, is not an accredited university and in January was fined 10,000 pounds sterling ($21,065 Cdn) by a London Magistrates' Court for misleading students. The B.C. government had told Kingston for at least the last five years not to be associated with AUL.
Late last week, Kingston's president, Michael Lo, a staunch supporter of the B.C. Liberal Party, was removed from the PCTIA board by Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell. Lo also resigned as an adviser on Premier Gordon Campbell's influential Chinese Community Advisory Committee, and as a party organizer for the Liberals.
Kingston is telling students who paid $15,000 for a two-year business degree to send up to $3,180 more for registration and "graduation" fees, in order to have their studies count at Wisconsin International.
One of those students is V [name removed at request of the student], a student from India who was told as recently as Oct. 3 to send the college $3,180 if he wanted his science degree. V said he completed studies in June 2005 and was supposed to get his degree from American University in London.
When he repeatedly complained he had not received the degree, the college told him by e-mail that AUL was "undergoing reorganization" and that if he wanted a degree he could register with WIU.
At first Kingston told him the transfer was free, but later insisted he would have to pay "double registration fee" of $636, a "credit transfer fee" of $1,272, and a "final graduation fee" of $1,272. The Kingston employee who wrote the email demanding the money identified herself as Janet Hu and said that most of Kingston's students were applying to WIU.
But a check of Wisconsin International University by The Vancouver Sun shows it is nothing more than a home office in Bonita Springs, Fla., of John Buuck, a self-styled university president who candidly admitted that his degrees aren't worth much to Kingston students.
Buuck told The Sun, Wisconsin International has campuses in Ghana, Estonia and the Ukraine but not in the United States. He also has students in China affiliated with another organization. He said the university is accredited through a private Arkansas company, Accrediting Commission International, which accredits a number of private colleges and universities.
Buuck said Kingston gives him $300 for every bachelor's degree, and $400 for every master's degree "for the trouble" Wisconsin has to go through to "make sure their credits and transcripts are legitimate and they've taken the proper courses."
But because Accrediting Commission International isn't a government agency such as the ones that accredit major U.S. institutions, degrees granted by its members may not be accepted by other universities or employers, he said.
"Kingston is supposed to make it very clear to the students that we do not have a campus in the United States, their degree may not be acceptable by another university, and it may not be acceptable by an employer," he said.
There was no such warning in the email correspondence V provided to The Vancouver Sun, and he said he was never told any degree he might get from WIU would be virtually worthless.
Anna Burke, Kingston's dean of admissions, refused to discuss the college's activities.
PCTIA registrar Jim Wright, who is conducting the investigation, said he didn't know about Wisconsin University International and said that students who have been offered degrees there should contact him.
V said in a telephone interview he decided not to apply to Wisconsin, and he's angry that his degree appears to count for so little.
"So really, this paper is worthless," he said. "That's very wrong."
V, who is now working in the United States, said he spent $15,000 on the degree and his parents used their savings for his living expenses.


Anonymous said...

goto on Trinity College. dun think it is degree mill.

Helluo Librorum said...

As Trinity College is unaccredited in the US, it is by definition a degree mill.

najamonline4u said...

really nice post. degree mills don't make such successful people. great job

Anonymous said...

This Dr Tan Tee Khoon is a fake! Pls expose him!