Fake Degrees: Do you REALLY want the gahmen to police degree accreditation?

The following has been written by Mendi Ang, student.


So the Internet explodes with disgust over degree mills and fake qualifications. The knee-jerk internet reaction is “why is there so little enforcement action by the government”?

What some netizens are asking for is a list of unaccredited schools to be published to weed out dubious qualifications.

As much as the government has been trying to shift the focus on skills, the paper chase will not disappear in a hurry. Higher qualifications still mean better jobs, and in turn – a FATTER paycheck (at least that’s what I was indoctrinated with).

To guarantee better career prospects, Singaporeans enrol themselves in part-time colleges and some spend hefty amounts of money to get certified in overseas institutions. Naturally we’ll be upset with foreigners coming in with qualifications that seem to surpass our own.

Behold the rhetoric:

“Your degree’s from overseas, is it because you can’t make it into a local university?”

“Studying overseas is so ‘slack’, Singapore how competitive? Bet you didn’t study as hard for yours as much as I did for mine.”

“Private school; your certifications must have been ‘bought’.”

In fact, if its not a big name like Harvard, Cambridge, Warwick…et al, we’d be raising our eyebrows.

So we ask the gahmen to police a “Singapore’s accredited degree list”.

Let’s consider the situation from this angle: ‘Lists of Accredited Universities’ or ‘Degree Authorisation Lists’, how feasible are they?

FYI: Currently there isn’t a list nor any central authority that grants recognition of overseas institutions; but there is a Council for Private Education that regulates the local private education sector.

secondary school


1. Think numbers

Unlike Singapore where the number of universities are currently within the count of our two hands (NUS, NTU, SMU, SUTD, SIT, UniSsIM), the United States alone has more than 8,000 institutions. Now, consider the entire Earth… You get the idea.

If we get the government to look into assessing each and every of these institutions for their eligibility, how much resources do you think that will take? (And we complain about tax payments…)


2. When we think the government controls too much, we complain; when we think the government doesn’t control enough, we also complain

We only like it when things are for our benefit. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, what MOE may regard as unaccredited universities may be accredited in the United States and elsewhere. Is a qualified person from an accredited university necessarily a better worker than someone who is unqualified and from an unaccredited university? If the government does roll out a list, think about what it will mean for many people. Dreams of a good life shattered, just because their education is not accredited here, their names may never be penned on the interview lists of employers. This risks retaliation if some workers ever get their papers denied overnight.

We can do away with the list. MOM conducts checks and applies stringent criteria in the issue of ‘S’ passes and Employment passes. Moreover, Minister of Manpower, Lim Swee Say also maintained that academic qualifications are not the sole determining factor for granting the passes.

By calling for the government to come up with a list of unaccredited institutions, are we stepping on others to raise ourselves up? These questions could spark debates that could go on for days on end.


3. In the eyes of the employer

From the perspectives of the MOE, “The reason (for not having a list) is that the employer should be the one deciding whether a degree-holder has the qualities desired for the job and the qualification most relevant to his needs. The employer is in the best position to decide how much value he will assign to a person’s qualification.” This is resonated by the MOM.

Ultimately, it does not make sense for employers to hire someone who is incapable of delivering work. They should review employees based on their coursework and through employment tests to see if they are fit for the job, and reward employees in accordance to their contributions.

The labour market is already tight, there are more jobs than people can fill. By crafting a list, are we making it difficult for businesses? Would you look down on your colleague if his or her university is suddenly not recognised?

How would you feel if the degree that you’ve worked so hard for, couldn’t be found on that list?

At the end of the day, it is about real skills. If you’re the hirer and someone comes to you with a paper from a university that you’re unfamiliar with, ask for the dissertation that the candidate has done. Ask real question and ask the candidate to demonstrate real skills.

There are some things that the government really shouldn’t touch and should keep their fingers out of: regulating schools is one of them.








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