Bogus ads promote foreign tertiary courses
Bogus claims have been found in advertisements for tertiary courses offered by Australian and United States institutions.
The Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation (HKCAA) has discovered over the past few months advertisements in mainland newspapers and the electronic media on courses which falsely claimed its accreditation.
HKCAA's executive director Wong Wai-sum said there were several cases but declined to reveal either the exact number or the names of the institutions involved. Her group has informed the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) about the latest cases.
Courses offered by overseas institutions in Hong Kong are required by law to be registered with the HKCAA to ensure their delivery and course content are comparable with those on offer in their home countries. Pure distance learning courses are exempted.
Registration was no guarantee of course quality, Ms Wong said. 'Comparability is just a basic requirement. To protect their interests, students should be mindful of the length of studies involved, course content and admission requirements.'
The EMB has received six complaints over the past two years on violation of the Non-local Higher and Professional Education (Regulation) Ordinance, and issued 60 written reminders to local agents on compliance with the requirement. It has referred four cases to law enforcement agents.
But HKCAA chairman John Leong said more public education was needed to protect consumer interests. 'The public needs to be reminded constantly that registration is not the same as accreditation.'
HKCAA has so far accredited three degree programmes offered by two Australian universities. It is encouraging more institutions to seek accreditation, which Professor Leong said represented a benchmarking.
Last year HKCAA began accreditation work on sub-degree and degree programmes run by local private institutions.
Ivy Ngan Kit-fan, director of the Australian Education Centre, said the centre had not received any complaints regarding courses which falsely claimed to have been accredited. But she admitted that it would be difficult for Australian universities to monitor their courses overseas.
'It is very likely that the universities involved in the cases do not even know about the content of the advertisements,' she said.
Ms Ngan advised students to check with the centre and the HKCAA first.
A list of accredited courses is available at www.hkcaa.edu.hk