Concern at University of Wales overseas degrees
- 7 December 2011
- From the section Wales
- In December 2011, BBC Wales learned that prosecutors in Thailand made the decision to drop the case made by Thailand's Higher Education Commission against Accademia Italiana.
A Malaysian pop star with a bogus doctorate has been running a college offering University of Wales degree courses, a BBC investigation shows.
A Bangkok college that Thai authorities say has been operating illegally, is also offering courses leading to degrees from the Welsh institution.
In November, Week in Week Out examined the way the University of Wales validated courses overseas.
The university said it was dealing "thoroughly" with the issues raised.
The programme revealed that Fazley Yaakob, who runs the Fazley International College (FICO) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was claiming to have both a masters and a doctorate in business administration.
But both came from a bogus university.
The pop star, who has four hit albums to his name, claimed the qualifications from the European Business School (Cambridge), an offshoot of the Irish International University, which was exposed as a sham by the BBC in 2008.
He said the University of Wales did not ask about his credentials, which were displayed prominently on the college website until he was confronted by BBC Wales' education correspondent Ciaran Jenkins in Kuala Lumpur.
No new admissions
Professor Nigel Palastanga, pro vice chancellor at the University of Wales, said the university was "concerned" about the issues raised in the programme.
"We are not happy about what is happening, we are dealing with it and will deal with it very thoroughly and will learn lessons from what has happened," he said.
The University of Wales announced it had suspended its involvement with Fazley International College, and would take no new admissions to its business administration and MBA courses until the matter had been investigated.
Professor Palastanga said there were no concerns about academic standards at the college.
Meanwhile, Thai authorities said Accademia Italiana, a fashion college offering University of Wales validated courses in Bangkok, Thailand, had been operating illegally.
Dr Sumate Yammoon, Secretary General of the Commission on Higher Education in Thailand, said last week that the matter was in the hands of the police.
However, Professor Palastanga said the situation had now changed.
'Run its course'
"My information is that the college is now operating legally within the Thai system," he said.
Jenny Randerson AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said she believed the University of Wales had now "run its course" and that its remaining accredited institutions in Wales - Swansea Metropolitan University, UWIC, Glyndwr University, Trinity Saint David and University of Wales, Newport - could operate independently.
Universities in Wales are bracing themselves for the outcome of a review into the governance of higher education, ordered by Education Minister Leighton Andrews.
He has now instructed the review to look at the issues raised in the Week In Week Out programme.
Cardiff University left the University of Wales in 2004 while the universities of Bangor, Swansea and Aberystwyth decided to offer their own degrees in 2008.
In November 2008, a BBC Wales Dragon's Eye investigation showed that the University of Wales validated courses run by a controversial bible college in the United States.
The university severed its ties with Trinity College of the Bible in Newburgh, Indiana shortly before the programme was broadcast.
Professor Palastanga said it was "not good" for the university's reputation when things went wrong, however he stressed it worked continually with its partners to uphold standards.
The University of Wales validates courses in more than 100 colleges in more than 40 countries.
There are currently 70,000 students studying for University of Wales degrees worldwide.
The university said the profits from its international validation programmes were invested in Welsh higher education.
Responding to a question from Jenny Randerson AM on the investigation, First Minister Carwyn Jones told the assembly the education minister has already asked the review of HE governance to look into this matter.
"Primarily, it's an issue for the University of Wales and its reputation," Mr Jones told AMs.
"So it's exceptionally important that the University of Wales takes note of the allegations that have been made, and then of course takes steps to ensure that if the allegations are correct, that there is no opportunity for anybody to use the name of the University of Wales in an inappropriate way."
Week In Week Out: University Challenged is on BBC One Wales at 2235 GMT on Tuesday, 9 November.