University damaged reputation of Wales, says minister

Image caption The University of Wales validates degree courses around the world

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has strongly criticised the University of Wales, accusing it of bringing Wales into ridicule and disrepute.

His comments follow BBC Wales' Week In Week Out showed a Malaysian pop star with a bogus doctorate ran a college offering University of Wales courses.

It also uncovered doubts about a college in Bangkok.

Professor Nigel Palastanga, pro vice-chancellor of the university said it noted Mr Andrews' comments.

He said: "We don't think the BBC Wales programme was a fair and accurate reflection of the University's international role, and we have already responded in detail to the specific points raised.

"We have noted the comments the minister has made and our chairman will be responding directly."

Mr Andrews said the university had to "get to grips" with the issues raised. The university has been asked to respond.

Earlier Mr Andrews met Professor Marc Clement, the University's vice chancellor, at a meeting of senior figures from higher education in Wales.

The minister told BBC Wales: "We are fed up with the University of Wales bringing the name of Wales into ridicule.

"We want to see an end to this. We want to see high quality control within the institution."

The programme revealed that Fazley Yaakob, who ran the Fazley International College (FICO) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was claiming to have both a masters and a doctorate in business administration. He stepped down following the programme.

Bogus university

But both came from a bogus university, and Thai authorities said Accademia Italiana, a fashion college offering University of Wales validated courses in Bangkok, Thailand, had been operating illegally.

Mr Andrews said he had been in contact with the Higher Education Funding Council and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education about the revelations.

He said: "The governance of the University of Wales will be under scrutiny in my higher education governance review."

Mr Andrews said the university still had many "strong attributes".

He added: "We want to see the University of Wales as a quality benchmark for higher education in Wales and internationally.

"Associations with dubious bible colleges, associations with institutions whose leadership have bogus degrees, that brings the name of Wales into disrepute and it brings the University of Wales itself into disrepute.

"I want to see that they are serious about this issue and they are getting to grips with it."

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) said on Thurday that it would be holding "urgent talks" with the university.

A spokesperson for the QAA said: "Our code of practice is absolutely clear that an institution should investigate 'the legal status of the prospective partner or agent, and its capacity in law to contract with the awarding institution'.

"We are writing to the University of Wales and if necessary will investigate this matter further, formally and with urgency.

"We will also be holding urgent talks with Marc Clements, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of 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.

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