On Monday the Senate at South Africa’s University of Zululand announced that it will launch an internal investigation into the alleged awarding of fake degrees to postgraduate students in return for cash payments at the University’s expanded campuses in Kwa- Dlangezwa and Richards Bay. The degrees are alleged to have been awarded in law, business management, public administration and education. As many as 4,000 degrees may have been sold in the past 20 years involving an internal investigating officer, an examination official, and possibly other university officials.
Qualification scandals at the University are not new. Five staff members were suspended in 1997 for allegedly accepting bribes of R260,000 for doctoring student records and selling 15 fake degrees. In 2007 80 students were de-registered after allegedly bribing university officials to pass their entrance exams.
Lingnan University students and alumni members staged a protest earlier this week at a graduation ceremony to express their indignation at the handling of a PhD fast-tracking scandal.
The university, which is Hong Kong’s only public liberal arts university, encountered controversy after it was revealed that Herdip Singh, Lingnan’s vice-president and comptroller, had plagiarised most of his thesis and had it fast-tracked from Tarlac State University in the Philippines.
Singh’s resignation one week ago was not the end of the story, however, as it was revealed that the institute that referred Singh to the University was Lifelong College, a private school founded by Lingnan council member Alex Lee Ye-lick. Lee has applied to take leave from the council to deal with the matter, but pressure is mounting for his resignation and for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who appointed Lee, to give up his powers of being able to appoint university council members.
Lingnan University has tried to distance itself from the matter, saying that the issues are related to the conduct of particular individuals and other institutions involved, not the University itself. However, a group of students and alumni disagree, saying that the matter is damaging the reputation of the university.