Choo Zheng Xi / Editor-in-Chief

The Straits Times today ran an article exposing unaccredited Panama based university West Coast University (WCU): a dubious outfit that sells degrees with little or no corresponding obligation on its students to clock class time.

The issues at stake are larger than that of “fraudulent or substandard degrees issued by institutions such as WCU. Allowing unaccredited overseas institutions operate to out of Singapore, especially ones that have been outlawed overseas, makes a mockery of Singapore’s attempts to be an “education hub”. It also has an implication on those pursuing reputable private degree courses in Singapore: how are employers to separate the wheat from the chaff given the poorly regulated nature of private degree education?

It is thus shocking to learn that instead of pushing to outlaw universities such as WCU, former Minister of State for Education Chan Soo Sen was actually the guest of honour at the “fraudulent”degree seller’s convocation.

His excuse? He had not been given any information about WCU’s accreditation, and his presence at the convocation was not meant to give the university credibility.

This explanation might possibly hold water if he was a random member of the public, with no knowledge of issues such as accreditation.

However, given that the Straits Times has previously run several exposes on degree mills (as the article points out, the reporter’s dog was registered to receive a doctorate), and Mr Chan was a former Minister of State for Education up until 2006, to claim ignorance is a poor defense.

Further, to claim that he did not intend to lend WCU credibility is missing the point.

Mr Chan might genuinely have neglected to do his due diligence and been ignorant of WCU’s background. However, in the eyes of those receiving the “fraudulent or substandard degrees”, as well as their family and friends, the presence of a former Minister of State for Education could only be interpreted as a seal of approval.


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