Evarist Bartolo | Sunday, 06 September 2009
Bookmark and Share

How academic fraud came to Malta - the EIE case

Two years ago, 24 Maltese men and women were very happy to be the first Maltese graduates from the European University. Sixteen of them flew to Barcelona for their graduation. Most of them had paid around €6,000 for their MBA. Eight of them completed the Diploma in Management programme. These 24 Maltese men and women had applied for their courses through the European Institute for Education (EIE), which operated the Malta Centre of the European University.
Those who run the European University were very satisfied with the work EIE was doing for them in Malta, so much so that the President of EIE, Mr Antonello Cappitta, was awarded the ‘King Fellow Award for Educational Services’ by ‘Dr’ Dirk Craen, President of the European University, for successfully establishing the Malta Centre of the European University. During the week of Easter in April 2006, the EIE were delighted to welcome Craen to Malta and organised meetings with top Maltese personalities, amongst them Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Education Minister Louis Galea.
The EIE reported that: “During these meetings, Dr Craen highlighted the University’s vision for the future growth in Malta and outlined ways in which the Maltese authorities and the university could collaborate to enhance the spectrum of education currently available in Malta. On their part, the Maltese authorities were very receptive to the suggestions put forward by Dr Craen and a roadmap was drawn up for further submissions to be made by the European University so as to ensure that items discussed would be favourably concluded in the shortest time span possible.”
It all sounded very impressive. The only problem is that the European University is not a university at all. It operates out of Switzerland but is not recognised by the Swiss government. It is not listed in the World Higher Education Database compiled by the International Association of Universities. The US Senate has investigated the European University and classifies it as a bogus institution not authorized to issue academic degrees. The top people of the European University also got their ‘degrees’ from their own university or other fake universities like Fairfax University of Louisiana in the United States.
The EIE is now trying to distance itself from this organisation and wants to shed all responsibility after it was a partner in the academic fraud carried out by the European University through its Malta Centre. The ‘first Maltese European University graduates’ are now painfully finding out that they were taken for an expensive ride. Their MBA course is not a post-graduate course, as the Malta Qualifications Council found out in its assessment of their course, as they only had a third of the workload of credits that post-graduate students cover to obtain their degree.
More serious than this deficiency in the quantity of credits, is the fact that the awarding institution is a fake university recognised by no serious education authority in the world.
To make matters worse, the PN government has allowed itself to be used by the EIE and the European University to obtain political and academic credibility for their courses. The EIE presented the European University as an ‘established university’. The European University declares that it is in the process of being recognised by the Ministry of Education of Malta and the Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan. Its courses were launched in Malta by the Minister of Education and government institutions were used by EIE and the European University to give students the impression that these courses were recognised and would help them advance in their careers.
Mr Antonello Cappitta who was awarded a ‘King Fellow Award for Education Services’ by the European University for bringing it to Malta, has been appointed by the Nationalist Party on its focus group to propose how to improve Malta’s higher education in the future.
The PN should be ashamed to have appointed such a person to advise it on the way forward for higher education in Malta. Before June 2009, the Minister of Education intended to present a bill on higher education. It has not come to parliament yet and when it comes, I will make it clear that a Higher Education Act in Malta should take steps to disqualify those institutions that cheat their students, and that we should have effective regulation and quality assurance to stop academic fraud from spreading in Malta. We should also provide public information about fake and unaccredited universities that make students pay for a piece of paper which they call a degree or a diploma, with no academic value or professional qualification for work.
The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education notes that the number of fake universities continues to rise in the world. There were 200 such universities in 2000. By 2005 they had multiplied to 800. The list includes not only the European University but also the International University of Vienna.
The EIE is not promoting the courses of the European University anymore but it is trying to persuade Maltese students to take courses offered by Metheki Public University of Tbilisi, Georgia. This is a shady organization as well, and the EIE has brought it to Malta and has also brought its rector, who is Professor Dr Manana Kirtbaia. She calls herself a professor because she was made “Honorary Professor of the International University, Vienna” – another fake university. A University that has as its rector a person who goes around flaunting a professorship from a fake university and participates in the bogus Club of the Vice Chancellors of Europe, is not to be trusted.
The spread of academic fraud to Malta is part of a worldwide trend. Last year, it was estimated that there were 10,000 holders of fake US degrees in Malaysia. The New South Wales Education Minister recently informed the state parliament that fake degrees are on sale from at least 40 sources in Australia. Seven years ago in Hawaii the court closed the American International University of Management and Technology for failing to comply with state law. But it still offers degrees in the rest of the world. A government investigation concluded that in Israel 5,500 people, including teachers, police and civil servants have been awarded fake University of Lincolnshire and Humberside degrees.
Nick Butler, export manager for education at the British Council, says several bogus universities appear each year – and students should be wary. He says the rapid globalisation of education is likely to attract “more of these shadowy organisations wanting to make a quick buck.
“Students need to check if a college is awarding degrees which are valid. The people who are setting up these institutions play on a lack of awareness.”

Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format

All the interviews from Reporter on MaltaToday's YouTube channel.



Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email