NOOSA – Albert Schram’s application seeking leave to retrieve his original PhD documentation from Italy is now being determined by the PNG national court.
The former vice chancellor of Papua New Guinea's University of Technology and his wife Paulina sit in a Port Moresby hotel nervously awaiting the outcome of the judge’s deliberations.
The national court is expected to make a decision by Monday.
Dr Schram was arrested earlier this month and charged with obtaining employment through ‘false pretence’ with police alleging he produced a fake PhD certificate to Unitech in 2012 when he was seeking the post of vice-chancellor.
This matter was first raised in 2013, not long after Dr Schram’s appointment, as he began to implement measures to improve financial transparency and accountability at Unitech.
These interventions caused controversy among some senior staff at the university leading pro-chancellor Ralph Saulep to challenge the veracity of the doctorate after which Dr Schram was deported from PNG in March 2013.
He spent a year at James Cook University in Cairns before being readmitted to PNG in April 2014, returning in triumph to the university to continue his program of reform.
This finally ended in further controversy with Dr Schram being dismissed by a newly constituted university council in February, as a result of which there was an agreement that he should depart the country.
The council has said it had nothing to do with his arrest and many highly qualified academics in PNG, Australia and Europe, including PNG’s higher education secretary Jan Czuba and the Australian National University’s Prof Stephen Howes, have verified the authenticity of the doctorate.
Indeed, the full transcript of the successful examination for the award of Dr Schram's PhD thesis is online here. The five-member examining board included academics from three eminent institutions: the European University Institute, Harvard University and the University of Bologna.
In Port Moresby early this week a committal court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to vary Dr Schram's bail conditions for him to leave PNG to secure the original version of his PhD from the European University Institute in Florence.
Meanwhile the ANU’s Dr Grant Walton told The Australian newspaper yesterday that “it was very concerning that [Dr Schram] has been detained.
“It sends a negative message about the rule of law in the country and ties to concerns about how academics are treated.”
Dr Walton said the charge against Dr Schram was “demonstrably false”.
There is a further hearing of Dr Schram's case in the national court today.