Degree of concern

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 January, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2001, 12:00am

Many employers can testify to the fact that university graduates can often barely string two sentences together in English. What is shocking is that some have earned their degrees overseas. When job applicants list degrees obtained in English-speaking universities, the reality often falls short of the promise.

Asia is a rich hunting ground for cash-strapped foreign universities. Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that some institutions, having accepted students who quite obviously do not meet basic entrance qualifications, attempt to cover up their venality, or perhaps complete it, by sending their graduates into the world with degrees hardly worth the paper they are printed on.

The problem has now been thrust into the open by a study by the Australia Institute, which found that some Australian universities had admitted foreign students who barely spoke English. Anecdotal evidence from local employers suggests it also exists in other countries.

The growing trend alarms academics and educationalists, and must be a matter of concern to people who have gone through the system only to discover they wasted time and money.

If steps are not taken to stop this, countries trying to market their degrees in the region will earn themselves an unenviable reputation. Even universities with the highest standards might end up stained, and Asian graduates who earned their diplomas by merit alone could be shunned by companies suspicious of their degrees.

Some students who venture overseas may have no real thirst for knowledge - and some may even happily 'buy' a degree - but universities everywhere must not allow their hunger for fat fees to compromise their standards.