A PhD in the ignoble art of cheating

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 12:00am


With the mainland having so many qualified people and too few jobs, it is hardly surprising that the selling of bogus academic degrees has evolved into a thriving industry. Nor are eyebrows raised when it is learned that hundreds of senior executives lost millions of yuan in scams uncovered by prosecutors.

Having academic letters after one's name has become almost a necessity for gaining advantage and clinching deals. Only by catching and making an example of the fraudsters can there be a chance of the unscrupulous trade being driven out of business.

That is easier said than done in a world that is increasingly putting more faith in qualifications than experience. In turn, that is leading some educational institutions to treat the awarding of degrees as a business. In this environment, degree mills offering fake qualifications are flourishing.

The rot has set in to an alarming degree if a few cases are any guide.

A woman who handed over 190,000 yuan (HK$229,000) for a PhD in business administration to a US university she had believed to be genuine found her degree was fake.

Tang Jun, a former president of Microsoft China, was found to have received his doctorate not from the California Institute of technology, as he had claimed, but an unaccredited college that sold degrees. A professor of Chinese language and literature at Tsinghua University was accused of plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation written two decades ago.

Weeding out the scammers and punishing them is just a starting point. Employers have to thoroughly check the qualifications of job applicants. Disgracing those who purposefully buy their diplomas and degrees through fraudulent means is essential.