Cambodia’s largest private education institution denied Wednesday having any current affiliation with an international university that awarded degrees to Cambodian students but has now been exposed as an elaborate hoax.
Irish International University awarded doctorates to an unspecified number of students from Build Bright University during a two-year partnership, which Build Bright claims ended in 2006. During that time, IIU awarded honorary doctorates to Prime Minister Hun Sen and CPP tycoon Senator Mong Reththy.
It emerged this week that the Irish government is considering taking legal action against IIU as they are not accredited as a university there, while a special investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation also exposed the IIU as a fake.
Cambodian students had paid up to $4,500 for “twin doctorates” from IIU and Build Bright.
Admitting that Build Bright had a partnership with the disgraced IIU, Dean of Build Bright law school Lam Chea said Wednesday that the relationship stopped 18 months ago after doubts were raised about the IIU’s credentials. Some local students, however, had continued to apply for IIU degrees in a private capacity, Lam Chea said.
He added that the partnership with IIU had been a mistake, and BBU would choose its international university partners more carefully in the future.
In an interview quoted on the BBC’s Web site, IIU Honorary Chancellor Jeffrey Wooller, listed in the university’s Web site as His Excellency Baron Knowth, acknowledged that the IIU was not “recognized anywhere” as a degree-awarding establishment.
In November 2006, BBU Vice Rector of Academics Dy Davuth was quoted as saying that IIU has no shortage of academic expertise.
“We have a lack of human resources, so we bring in these experts from Irish International to help us,” he said at the time.
According to reports in the Irish Independent newspaper, Ireland’s Department of Education does not recognize IIU.
“[IIU] has no standing as an educational institution in Ireland,” a department spokesperson told the newspaper, adding that the department’s legal section was still examining the options with regard to taking action against IIU.
The problem of false or unqualified universities selling fake degrees and doctorates has meant confusion for employers and is bad for Cambodia’s image internationally, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said Wednesday.
“It used to be fake [military] generals,” Son Chhay said. “Now there is an overload of fake doctors.”
Chan Roth, director of the Education Ministry’s department of scientific research, which is in charge of master’s and PhD programs in Cambodia, said Wednesday that there were no results from an investigation into IIU that started one year ago when doubts were raised about its degrees.
“We wrote a letter [to the IIU] but no one responded,” Chan Roth said. “There is no report,” he added. (Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)