Barely coping highlands people struggle for services & peace
10 Minutes

Fake academic credentials, a world problem we’ve inherited

Credentials 4 saleA G SITORI

PORT MORESBY – For some time in the place that I work I was fortunate to act as human resources director.  Part of my job was to shortlist applicants for each position that was advertised.

The large numbers of dubious looking certificates that crossed my desk were cause for concern.  The computer-scanned copies were almost as good as originals.

In the end, we had to institute measures to stop people pulling wool over our eyes. This included asking for a show and tell of the original certificates.

I believe that more than half the workforce in our organisation comprises people with qualifications and credentials that are dubious. There are just a few dedicated officers who carry the load here. Others with high qualifications just do not pull their share of work.

So, for mundane things, we end up hiring consultants to produce simple outcomes. Many people we hired claim credentials that are not their own. Damned dicey world of employment if you ask me.

The famous Enga Teachers College saga of fake receipts echoed the same problem that was faced by UPNG. Some teachers colleges have been allowing in trainees with no verified Grade 10 or 12 qualifications, so the quality of education our children receive gets further eroded.

Now we have places where you don’t have to enrol in an institution; you just buy your academic credentials and you’re home and hosed.

I thought faking academic credentials was just a Papua New Guinean phenomenon until I began to hear of cases in Australia of doctors who knew nothing about doctoring. Here are bachelors and masters degrees and even doctorates that are fakes.

And we in PNG dealt with fake Grade 6, 10, 12 and some lousy diplomas, especially teaching certificates. Now that seems like chicken feed as we confront bogus degrees and doctorates of all kinds.

Fake ANU transcript
Fake transcript purporting to come from the Australian National University

That international phony certificates can be so easily obtained doesn’t augur well for the local workforce in our strategic mining and LNG industries. From England, we spotted a Nottingham University College certificate that looked the goods with a convincing crest and perfect holograms.

We found it was fake when the college confirmed the named person on the certificate was never a student at any time.

An offshore certificate from some dubious place will always meet with caution. But a Nottingham University College certificate that looks authentic in every respect makes my head dizzy.  Usually British academic credentials are good but if legitimate-looking fakes can be so easily produced, I don’t know what the world is heading for.

A 2017 report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation told of a person in America, a psychologist, practised there for 20 years with a fake master’s degree and, hallelujah, turned up in PNG. What on earth did this college professor teach his students? How to live a double life?

We beg those with fake international credentials, please don’t come here to take our jobs; we have our own share locally. It’s one aea where we don’t need to rely on imports.

And those already in the workforce with giaman credentials need to know we are getting smarter and will expose the fakes and that time is coming soon.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

I've got a common old degree from the University of Queensland Chris but it was bloody hard work to get it. Like me, you probably got your degree while you were holding down a job at the same time.

These days you seem to be able to get a degree in anything - basket weaving for instance - and they seem to take no time at all. I reckon the standards have dropped markedly since we were at university, mainly for the reasons you cite.

I reckon our degrees probably mean more to us than modern degrees.

When someone rorts the system with a fake degree I remember the hard work I had to put in and it makes me really angry.

Peter Kranz

Even cats and dogs can earn degrees!

Chris Overland

A G Sitori is right to regard fake qualifications as a serious threat to his country’s professions, trades, economy and overall credibility.

The rise in the incidence of fake qualifications in PNG closely parallels what has been happening across much of the world.

In part, this is because so much emphasis is now placed upon having post secondary or tertiary qualifications to do jobs that were once typically held by people who had only completed their secondary education.

Thus, many employers now demand a degree level qualification for jobs that, in truth, merely require average intelligence, secondary level literacy and numeracy and a good work attitude.

It is also a function of technology, in that it is now possible to relatively easily produce exceedingly good fraudulent documentation such as the fake University of Nottingham certificate mentioned by Mr Sitori.

And, of course, there are still so-called institutions of higher learning that cheerfully issue degrees to those willing to pay for them and who have done little or no work in their purported area of study.

A far more insidious problem is that more than a few qualifications are issued by entirely legitimate institutions to people whose academic achievements are, in practice, very modest indeed.

Basically, some institutions appear to be certifying that their students have achieved under graduate or higher degree standards of competence even though this is not really the case.

This is because, in the eternal struggle for paying students, many institutions of higher learning are “dumbing down” both their entry and learning standards.

They are responding to a market whereby if students find the entry and academic standards too hard to achieve, the fear is that they and their money will go elsewhere, to attend more accommodating institutions.

This is no minor matter. For example, when recruiting medical practitioners, the possession of the relevant degrees is not, of itself, enough to secure approval to practice in Australia.

Quite rightly, governments, registration boards and hospitals are very interested in the issuing authority for those degrees.

The truth is that the standard of education offered across the world’s tertiary institutions can vary quite strikingly. A medical qualification from Harvard or Cambridge or Paris or Moscow or Tokyo or Beijing is likely to be of the very highest calibre, whilst one issued from a more obscure university may be rather less so.

In truth, it is the quality of the teaching staff and facilities available that is at least as important as the efforts of the student.

If the professorial staff contains a number of winners of the Nobel Prize or the Mills Medal or similar awards, the academic standards are likely to be pretty solid. This is why a degree from a place like Harvard or Oxford is more highly regarded than one from my alma mater, Flinders University of South Australia.

I was awarded what Flinders University described as an “ordinary” bachelor’s degree. It certainly felt rather extraordinary to me but I know that it really represents merely a certificate of competence in reading, understanding, analyzing and writing about relatively complex information and ideas.

Flinders is a good university that has produced a long line of successful graduates in many fields, but it is never going to challenge Oxford or Cambridge for prestige.

In a world that seems to be growing more complex and difficult to understand by the day, a small, emerging nation like PNG needs all the indigenous intellectual horsepower it can get.

For this reason, the problem detailed by A G Sitori therefore is more than a mere nuisance: it threatens to undermine the reputations, capacity and integrity of PNG’s most important institutions and businesses.

For this reason, he is right to bring it to public attention. The real question is what are the various relevant authorities in PNG actually going to do about it?

I recommend that, as a useful start, they might care to stop trashing the reputation of PNG’s tertiary system with absurd and damaging performances such as the recent persecution of Dr Albert Schram.

The significance of this incident is that, apart from the damage done to Dr Schram, it is a powerful disincentive for world class academics to ever come to PNG to teach. Why would you join an institution that has shown a willingness to treat its academic staff so badly?

Right now, there is neither prestige nor advancement to be obtained from being appointed to such an institution, so the brightest and the best will simply go elsewhere, to PNG’s great disadvantage.

Now that is a problem that seems to deserve immediate attention.

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