This is the title of a June 16th article about U.S.-based rogue providers (unaccredited schools) operating in Vietnam (Làm tiến sĩ ở Mỹ nhưng không biết tiếng Anh!). The English translation of the article, entitled Director Questioned About Dubious US Doctoral Degree, was published on 6/23 by VietnamNet.
The “university” in question is Southern Pacific University, which has two “accredited centers” in Vietnam. SPU also has agents in China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, and the UK.
In this case, the director of the department of culture, sports and tourism in Phú Thọ in northern Vietnam “earned” an online Ph.D. from February 2007 to September 2009. The academic work, such as it was, was in translation, including the “dissertation defense.”
And the cost of a “Ph.D.” from SPU? 8k cash or 9k on the installment plan. (That’s about a 12% interest rate, in case you were wondering.)
|DOCTORAL DEGREE PROGRAMS (Ph.D)|
|Cash Payment Plan :||$8000.00|
|Installment Payment Plan :||$9000.00|
|Payable in 9 equal payments of||$1000.00|
I came across a LinkedIn profile of a Vietnamese man who is “head of sales” for a multinational telecommunications company. Under education he (proudly, unknowingly?) lists “Southern Pacific University – State of Delaware – USA.”
A couple of my favorite quotes from the English article about Southwest American University:
A student only identified as T. said “I’ve paid so I have to attend classes so I don’t regret spending my money. But I don’t understand anything. Most of the time, I search for information on the Internet for my thesis.”
“You simply go to the Internet and search for the information in Vietnamese, then cut and paste it into a complete thesis and have it translated by Google into English,” she said.
Another student, who asked not to be identified, joked “after the course, you will be a master of cut and paste.”
This 10-month program is a real cash cow for the organizers: $120k gross revenue. Money, of course, is what it’s all about: 1) the potential to earn lots of it by partnering with the bottom feeders of U.S. higher education; and 2) the willingness of some Vietnamese of means to pay a lot for an overseas and, preferably, a U.S. higher education credential. Admissions criteria? Money and some “seat time.”
In case you’re interested in seeing SAU’s “campus” in beautiful Buena Park, California, check out this Google Maps photo. It’s right next to the Islamic Relief Center, Belinda’s Authentic Mexican, Del Taco, Firestone Complete Auto Care, Subway Sandwiches and Jack in the Box.
Below is an excerpt from a forthcoming article of mine about rogue providers in Vietnam.
This issue is a quietly ticking time bomb that will explode not all at once but over an extended period of time, slowly, insidiously, invisibly for the most part but nevertheless destructively. The cumulative effect of “US higher education institutions” cheating students and parents will tarnish the luster, damage the reputation and dilute the integrity of accredited US colleges and universities. Thus, we will be doing ourselves and foreign countries a favor by taking the issue of learner protection seriously and taking the necessary steps to rein in, or at least expose, unaccredited schools.
It is an issue that should also concern the US State Department because part of its work is directly related to public diplomacy and the United States’ image in the eyes of the Vietnamese and people of other nationalities.
Qualitatively and in many other respects rogue providers are worlds apart from accredited institutions. However, there is one common distinguishing characteristic: they are perceived as US American institutions of higher education. It matters not that one was created in a few months at a cost of several thousand dollars and received state approval (maybe) while the other was established 50 years ago, has a budget in hundreds of millions and is regionally accredited. The end result is the same – guilt by association. Ultimately, there is the very real risk that we will all be tarred with the same tawdry brush in the court of public opinion in Vietnam and elsewhere. Reversing the damage would not be an easy undertaking.
From the standpoint of someone who has worked with regionally accredited US higher education in Vietnam, it is exceedingly difficult to explain to Vietnamese why US-based rogue providers are allowed to exist and why the US permits such a substandard service to be exported (not unlike the dumping of certain products in “Third World” countries that don’t happen to meet US standards). Making money surely places a distant second to ensuring quality education and training for US and international students.