New sites found with link to phony university

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 November, 2008, 12:00am

An investigation by Education Post has uncovered two locally based websites with suspected links to the man behind the distance learning centre exposed last month for running degrees from non-existent or unlicensed universities.

The websites were this week offering courses from York University in Mobile, Alabama, which is unlicensed and being investigated by authorities there for operating illegally.

ICL Distance Learning Centre, run by 'professor' Steve Ho Kwok-cheong, appears to have ceased operations since the Post's original investigation, even though Mr Ho maintains he did nothing wrong.

Mr Ho's 'PhD' was issued by YorkU, which also listed him as a member of its academic board until the investigation was published.

However, this week the Post discovered advertisements for YorkU courses on websites run by Sky Field Group and Career Professional Training Institution.

A 'Professor Steve Ho' is listed in course descriptions as either module leader or module supervisor - though it is not clear if it is the same person.

The Sky Field website took down all references to YorkU yesterday, shortly after the Post made inquiries.

When contacted, Phillip Ho, who is listed on both websites as principal instructor for the courses, said the courses were no longer operational.

'I haven't taught those courses for a long time,' he said. 'We are just doing business here. What does it have to do with you?'

Mr Ho refused to answer further questions relating to his connections with either YorkU or Steve Ho, and repeatedly terminated the Post reporter's phone calls.

'Do not call me again. If you do I will call the police and get you arrested,' he said.

However, Ceres Ho Tung-mei, project officer for Sky Field, appeared to contradict Mr Ho's statement.

'We have not actually run YorkU courses yet because they are a very recent addition,' she said. 'We only started offering them within the last month or two.'

Annette McGrady, who is handling YorkU's case for the Alabama State Department of Post-Secondary Education, confirmed the licence application had been rejected.

'Their application has been rejected,' she said. 'A letter ordering them to cease and desist was sent to them on October 17.'

The YorkU website states: 'Licensed by the State of Alabama, York University is authorised to grant associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.'

Ms McGrady said the department was preparing to press charges if YorkU did not take down its website.

However, Barrett Weinberger, YorkU's agent in Alabama, rejected the department's version of events.

'They have a habit of telling people things over the phone that are not true,' he said, insisting YorkU did have a valid licence, but it had been 'improperly and wrongly suspended' due to a 'staffing change'.