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Fake PhD Scandal: Murad Ras’ Case of Honor and Honesty

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How does one garner influence with a doctorate degree?

Human beings are social climbers who continuously seek and desire approval, extolment, praise – and even flattery – of their peers. The longing for approval is driving force behind human motivation. It is the fuel that furthers the fire to achieve more, to do more and to do better.

While some toil hard to achieve recognition from others, for many it appears to be a far-fetched dream. The relentless desire of achieving quick recognition than going through a long haul, sometimes, can become the genesis of fraud.

Take the case of students cheating in an exam. The potential that clearing the exam will bring joy to and praise from one’s family encourages students to work hard, and in other cases, that’s also the urge behind cheating and fraudulently passing the examination. To some, the desire for recognition and acknowledgement might even be a greater motivation for striving than the fear of failure itself.

Money Matters

Education was considered the most prized possession of an individual. No amount of money, wealth or fame could substitute for lack of education. The value of education has been deeply wired into our social system and is one of the most certain ways to amass respect and admiration.

No wonder that a majority of humans go to great lengths in pursuit of education. However, somewhere along this search for social approval via education, money gets involved and the rest, as they say, is history. Money becomes the ultimate tool for pretenders to exercise their pretention for social approval. A means to move a notch up in the social hierarchy.

Anyone who says money cannot buy everything hasn’t really ever had enough money, or hasn’t looked in the right place. Undertake a quick search on the Internet and you will be surprised to find colleges and universities that are willing to offer you “education” if you can pay the right price.

“Diploma mills”, as they have come to be known, are institutions that award academic degrees and diplomas with substandard or no academic study and without approval by educational accreditation bodies.

Acquiring Honor

Pakistan isn’t short of its own variety of diploma mills. However, ours do not offer the same authenticity as the ones from the first world countries.

Here comes in the case of Punjab’s incumbent Education Minister Dr Murad Raas, who received an honorary doctorate (PhD) in Business Administration from American Heritage University of Southern California (AHUSC) in 2010.

The university in question has been established since 2003, offering degrees to mostly working adults in law and business administration. The California Bureau has approved the institution for Private Postsecondary Education. However, it has no accreditation from any state, regional or federal educational accrediting body.

According to the report by The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) published in 2017, no students were enrolled in any programs offered by the American Heritage University of Southern California. The university wasn’t offering any PhD programs but only BA and MA programs. The report also stated that the percentage of students completing degree programs from AHUSC was zero. Moreover, some students from UAE had also raised questions about the university’s authenticity through posts on social media.

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Secondly, if you access the ahusc.net website and look for faculty, you will be surprised to find that the university only has ten members in its faculty — all of them adjunct. Staff strength, as per the website, is limited to one member.

However, perhaps the alarm that rang the loudest was when the university was approached by one of our team members to inquire about an honorary doctorate and how to receive it.

 

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To test the waters, the above message was sent to the varsity’s online agent by a team member. To our surprise, none other than the university’s founder and Chancellor Tony Ogiamien himself returned a message a few days later. The reply itself was surprising, as officials in higher positions do not usually respond to casual inquiries.

Imagine Elon Musk responding to your inquiry about buying a Model 3. Yes, that would indeed be strange.

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The screenshots highlight our reply and the subsequent response from the university president.

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Our request for an endowment against an honorary PhD was now being considered seriously, for we were asked to suggest an amount. So, we did.

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At this point, we felt certain that all that lay between our team member and his very own doctorate degree was some haggling – a little documentation and the formal money transfer. So, we let the conversation be put on hold.

Moral Dilemma

Now, it is one thing to acquire an honorary doctorate to blow the trumpet of one’s own abilities in one’s private circles or to get mileage in the career through deception, but it is a whole different scenario when someone aspiring for a political and public office presents themselves as a doctor of philosophy to influence a certain electorate.

Universities around the world confer honorary doctorates on people all the time but these awards are generally reserved for those who have passionately dedicated their lives to a specific field or the society, in general. Consider people like Mark Twain, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Muhammad Ali, Mother Teresa and JK Rowling. Take a moment to consider their influence around the world. It certainly far exceeds their mortal life, which is why they have been showered with honorary awards by varsities around the world without them ever asking for it.

And despite several doctorates awarded to them, they chose not to use the prefix of Dr before their names like our honorable education minister does.

It is generally a moral understanding on part of the recipient of such honorary degrees to not proclaim themselves as doctors of philosophy in public life or at least explain the circumstances in which the degree was received by adding letters “h.c.” (honoris causa) with the PhD title.

However, ‘Dr’ Murad Raas did none of these and nor did he explain his services to the field of business administration in Pakistan or the US against which he was conferred the honor.

Remember the time when humans actually went hunting dangerous wild animals and mounted their busts upon walls to display as acts of valor? Well, you can just buy such animal busts nowadays for display and spin a tale of heroism around it to your liking.

This trophy hunting of degrees and diplomas is unfortunate and sets a dangerous precedent for the impressionable minds that money can turn most ailments right; that it can buy you power, position, stature and honor. Hence, if you have the means, you can mislead the public at large with misleading titles.

And, that there is honor in dishonesty.

 

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