by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Diploma mills offer questionable or bogus certificates, diplomas, and degrees
- People have received a qualification that is worth absolutely nothing
- GNAB uses multi-point eligibility criteria to vet institutions of higher learning
The establishment of university campuses and the provision of online learning are all part of the trade in higher education services which is considered a billion-dollar industry.
The occurrence of people in Grenada and the wider Caribbean duped into acquiring fake degrees from a seemingly accredited institution of higher learning is more common than you think said Shane Mc Quilkin, Quality Assurance Officer at the Grenada National Accreditation Board (GNAB).
Commonly referred to as ‘diploma mills’ these fake universities offer questionable or bogus certificates, diplomas, and degrees to persons seeking higher qualification online.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) considers education as a service sector. This has contributed to the growth of diploma mills in recent years which certify or sell degrees and certificates to substandard education providers and has further fuelled the debate on quality tertiary education.
“It’s a huge threat because of the ease of access to computers,” Mc Quilkin said. “Education is now like selling a car or clothes, meaning anybody can do it and advertise. There is no rule to say that you can’t provide the service of education, but it is up to the consumer to decide.”
He said the pressure to have the requisite qualification and the costs associated, have forced people to either fast track or accept favourable terms in exchange for their degree. He provided a few warning signs that people should look out for. Mc Quilkin cautions to be aware of warning signs. “For instance, when you hear the institution say that you can get a degree if you pay let’s say $600, then they will tell you that you have so much experience already then just write an exam and get your degree. So they pressure you by offering a scholarship, but you must pay by tomorrow in other words. They give you no time to think or to assess or go to do the research and because we are now in a degree or qualification-driven world, we jump at it sometimes without first paying attention to due diligence.”
He said there are many instances where this has affected Grenadians. “I know of people in Grenada that have been duped, who have spent lots of money and at the end of the day received a qualification that is worth absolutely nothing; from as low as a diploma to as high as a PhD or doctorate, that is a real thing in Grenada.”
GNAB provides oversight on quality assurance and accreditation of post-secondary and tertiary level institutions in Grenada and is responsible for advising on the status of quality assurance and accreditation concerning local, foreign or transnational, post-secondary and tertiary level programmes and institutions. To ensure that the institution is accredited to offer academic certification, Mc Quilkin encourages persons seeking online education to visit the Grenada National Accreditation Board on Church Street, St George’s.
Mc Quilkin stated that GNAB’s mandate is to ensure that all new educational institutions are properly vetted, using multi-point eligibility criteria to be considered for registration. “Registration in and by itself is a process. We need to check at the very basic level, everything that you have. We need to check your institution, we need to check your finances, we need to check your staff. So we need to ensure that the institution that you are going to start is a viable institution and not a fly-by-night institution.”
To be eligible for registering an institution must:
- Have students registered
- Ensure programmes offered have a structure that shows methodology and interaction
- Meet applicable licencing requirements for the State of Grenada
- Have a predominant portion of the participants involved in continuing education experience
- Demonstrate continuous, ongoing and successful operation of the institution. At a minimum, one graduating class must have completed their training. The term “continuous operation” means that the principal educational and training activities of the institution have not had any interruptions, except in extenuating circumstances
- Not have had a prior accreditation withdrawn (neither voluntary) from an internationally recognised accrediting agency
- Have been under the same ownership and/or control for at least two years
- Be an educational establishment that offers post-secondary certificates, diplomas, Associate’s level or Bachelor’s degree or postgraduate degree.
- Ascribe credit hours to programmes
- Offer education and training other than that required for academic credentials
- Agrees to abide by the GNAB’s Criteria and Standards for registration, policies and procedures and to support the goals and integrity of the registration process
- Demonstrate a record of responsible financial management (minimum two years) with sufficient resources to maintain quality training and educational services.
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