Following more than a week, the Info-Comm Development Authority of Singapore finally announced that its thorough investigation into Nisha Padmanabhan’s MBA degree from a known degree mill has concluded.
(It is) satisfied that she did not deceive or mislead IDA by citing the MBA in her CV when she applied to IDA for a job.
Nisha had enrolled for an MBA distance learning programme with Southern Pacific University in 2005 when she was residing in Malaysia. She had genuinely believed her MBA programme to be bona fide, and she had put in effort to obtain the qualification. In retrospect, Nisha acknowledges that she should have been more discerning in assessing the quality of the university which she had selected to pursue her distance learning programme.
While IDA did not take Nisha’s MBA into account when hiring her, as the job only required a Bachelor degree-holder, we did look at her relevant skillsets and past work experience as she was a mid-career hire.”
Fair enough. Both Padmanabhan and IDA have at least acknowledged that the MBA programme was not a “bone fide” course.
Padmanabhan has changed her LinkedIn profile indicating that her only bona fide qualification is her Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Mumbai, which is ranked outside of the top 500 universities in the world. One website, which ranks accredited universities around the world places University of Mumbai in 1787th position compared to National University of Singapore, which is 74th.
This episode certainly puts a new spin on the Government’s provocations that degrees—which according to Minister Khaw Boon Wan, cannot be eaten—are not important.
Interestingly, IDA’s admission implies that it also did not know that Southern Pacific University degrees were not bona fide till this week! Its Human Resource department, it appears, does not scrutinize qualifications of its employees and possibly does not have a database of accredited universities to perform the most basic of checks.
From the public’s perspective, it seems Padmanabhan’s response—that she was naïve—was her only defense if she still wanted to hang on to her position. In its “thorough investigation”, did IDA corroborate her explanation that she did not know her course was not a bona fide one?
Why did Padmanabhan choose SPU? Did she apply to other universities as well? What was the duration of Padmanabhan’s “distance learning programme” at SPU? Proper part-time online courses are rarely completed sooner than full-time ones. What were her SPU course fees? A ridiculously low cost for an MBA should have been a giveaway.
What “effort” was required of her during the course? Did IDA look at any of her coursework to determine if it was of the type and scale of a typical post-graduate course? If, for instance, Padmanabhan did no coursework or minimal work, how could she not have known she was enrolled in a bogus programme?
At which point did Padmanabhan become aware that her programme was not a legitimate one? If it was during the course, why did she not disenroll and cut her losses or ask for a refund? If her suspicions were aroused, why did she not investigate SPU further? There are various sources on the internet that list degree mills. In fact, a Google search for the words, "Southern Pacific University", spits out primarily negative reviews and lists of unaccredited universities.
If Padmanabhan found out that degree was not bona fide only after completing her course—which beggars belief—why did she list her MBA qualification in her IDA job application and her LinkedIn profile?
Did IDA ask these fundamental questions of Padmanabhan and what responses did it elicit?
IDA’s sub-standard HR practices, “thorough investigation”, and statements are so unconvincing that the Minister of Manpower must convene an immediate inquiry into this affair to assuage public disquiet.
Separately, the Workforce Development Agency and Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority, which have remained very silent on this issue, need to provide clarifications on several related matters. Do these organisations also consider SPU to be a degree mill? If they do, and if Padmanabhan had listed her MBA qualifications on her work permit, permanent residency and citizenship applications, why was she successful in these applications.
Far from the matter being closed with IDA’s most recent statement, the important process to stop the rot is only now starting. As details are emerging that hundreds, perhaps thousands, in Singapore have thrived using bogus qualifications, the Government needs to send out an unequivocal message that meritocracy in the workplace is still a core value.
This article was first published at maskedcrusader.blogspot.sg