Founders of fraudulent university in jail, HK associate still selling courses The man who was 'dean of studies' at fraudulent St Regis University is still selling distance learning qualifications in Hong Kong. The US operation was closed following an investigation and its founders were jailed. But Steve Ho Kwok-cheong - one-time Asia representative of its business school and St Regis School of Martial Arts - continues to provide online courses up to PhD level from 'universities' you have probably never heard of and others which have never heard of him. Until this week, Mr Ho's company - ICL Distance Learning Centre - offered online courses from 11 universities in the US, Central America and the Philippines that it claimed to be authorised to recruit or offer distance programmes for, either through affiliation or collaboration. The courses ranged from sub-degree, undergraduate to postgraduate qualifications. By yesterday, five of these universities had been removed from ICL website - www.icledu.org - following the South China Morning Post's investigation into Mr Ho's activities. The investigation discovered that at least two were either unlicensed or did not exist, and four genuine universities denied having connections with Mr Ho, ICL or Ho's other company, In-Com Link Management Associates. The search for Mr Ho led to Post reporters trawling through virtual miles of cyberspace, making calls across four continents at all hours this week before arriving at two apparently unconnected addresses in Central - an office services centre in World-Wide House and a tiny public accountant's office in Tsim Sha Tsui. When a reporter finally made contact with Mr Ho by phone yesterday morning, he said he had done nothing wrong. 'We just provide the course materials,' he said. 'As this is pure online learning, with no face-to-face classes, we do not need to register with the Education Bureau.' He said the majority of his students were not based in Hong Kong. However, earlier this week he had been keen to help a Post reporter posing as a customer looking for a fast track to a degree. ICL's website describes Mr Ho as an 'educational professional' who has 'been a full/part-time lecturer for different famous worldwide universities/post-secondary institutes, such as University of Sydney, OUHK, City University (UK), University of Heriot-Watt and University of Wollongong, since 1991'. Checks at SydneyU, Wollongong, Heriot-Watt and London's CityU revealed none had a record of employing him. Open University was unable to confirm or deny the connection by the time of going to print. Mr Ho said the positions had been in Hong Kong - 'lecturing' at evening courses run by local companies on the universities' behalf. 'I was a lecturer teaching in Hong Kong.' The website also states Mr Ho has a PhD, although it does not specify where he obtained it. The Post investigation discovered it was from York University, Mobile, Alabama - not to be confused with its namesakes in Canada or Britain - which lists Mr Ho as a member of its academic board. Inquiries with Alabama authorities confirmed YorkU had no official accreditation and was illegal. An application for a licence is pending, but Annette McGrady, the private school licence specialist handling the case, said it was 'highly unlikely' to succeed due to concerns about the capacity of their faculty. 'They have never been licensed in Alabama,' she said. The school had also been given a written warning about selling 'honorary degrees' to Hong Kong, she said. No calls to YorkU - which operates from a lawyer's office - were returned. However, the Post received an e-mail from a 'Professor Akiva Fradkin' containing a digital image of a purported official licence. It expired on November 1, 2006. Mr Ho confirmed his PhD had been from YorkU but insisted it was a genuine qualification. 'I had to submit coursework online and it was assessed,' he said. Mr Ho said being on the academic board meant he could design courses, which could be accredited by YorkU and offered through ICL under the Alabama centre's name. 'I just care about developing a high-quality, pure online learning course,' he said. He said the lack of officially recognised accreditation - YorkU is accredited by an unofficial organisation which only accredits similar small private outfits - did not concern him as accreditation was 'very personal'. Mr Ho declined to explain his relationship with the St Regis University scandal, but did not deny involvement. He said he did not like St Regis' approach of 'just selling' degrees without requiring coursework. 'At least [my students] have to complete coursework. They can fail and some of them do,' he said.