I came across this Linkedin profile for the General Manager of UnitedHealth Group in Singapore. It is a US health care company that has a branch in Singapore.
He did not list down any other qualifications other than his PhD. But guess what I found when I googled for his Commonwealth Open University PhD?
That's right! It's a fake degree! So what is going to happen to this Singaporean? Will he lose his job and be thrown in jail for this deception? Or will the government show that it treats locals and foreigners with fake degrees equally by not arresting this guy because he genuinely believes that he had obtained a bonafide PhD?
They are colleges in name only, diploma mills, where a degree can be bought and paid for with very little work. These bogus universities lack recognition from any legitimate agency. A FOX 5 investigation discovered some professors at the University of the District of Columbia who claim to have Ph.D.s, got them from a school that fits the government definition of a diploma mill.
Unlike accredited institutions where it takes years to earn a college education, even more for a Ph.D., Commonwealth Open University doesn't have the same requirements. A doctorate costs $3,450.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which oversees accrediting in the United States, considers a Ph.D. from there nothing short of a phony degree. Judith Eaton, CHEA's president said it's "highly unlikely" Commonwealth's degrees aren't worth the paper they're written on.
"An employer should want conformation of the legitimacy of the degree. I think they would have trouble getting it," Eaton said.
It may be worthless, but the degree didn't raise red flags for three UDC professors in the criminal justice department. That Ph.D. also earned the professors a bump in salary.
Angelyn Flowers, who teaches in homeland security and is Director of the master's degree program, earned her Ph.D. from Commonwealth Open University. So did Sinclair Jeter, an assistant professor in criminal justice, and professor Margaret Moore, who once ran the Department of Corrections under former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.
"Honestly, that's a little bit insulting to the rest of us trying to obtain our degrees or bachelor's," said Tyrone Gibson, who is taking classes at UDC for the summer.
Students at the school were disturbed that the university was unaware of the questionable degrees obtained by faculty. The lack of legitimate credentials also angered them.
"That's serious. I worked hard for my first degree and I'm just shocked," said Alex Garrett, another UDC student.
Commonwealth Open University is registered in the British Virgin Islands. It has no address on its website, just a post office box. The university claims to be accredited by the Wiener School for Advanced Studies on Global Education and Distance Learning. In an e-mail, it explained its disputed accreditation and said, "No course is ever going to be accredited or recognized everywhere."
It's not recognized by the Department of Education for financial aid eligibility or a legitimate accrediting agency in the United States or the equivalent body in Britain. Under federal law, it meets the definition of a diploma mill.
"I would call them that (fake)," said CHEA's Eaton.
In response to our findings, Dr. Ken Bain, UDC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, issued a statement saying in part, "The overwhelming majority of UDC's professors and leaders are extremely talented, credentialed professionals with doctorates, or other appropriate terminal degrees … Rest assured, we will address anyone who does not meet our stringent internal review standards as we continue crafting the model university."
To show how easy it would be to get a degree from Commonwealth Open University, I submitted an application claiming to be a history teacher with 15 years experience seeking a doctorate.
Without requiring transcripts or proof of work, Commonwealth accepted me into its Ph.D. program. I was told all I needed to complete was a 50-page report, and of course, pay. I didn't enroll, but they made it seem like a piece of cake.
Compare that to a doctorate from a recognized accredited university, which usually takes more than eight years and cost an average of $39,700 in 2008, according to the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.

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