Low and behold, yet another bogus degree scandal has hit the local headlines. Last week the Sunday Times broke the story about the sorry state of affairs playing itself out at the University of Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal. Apparently more than 4,000 fake degrees have been purchased from insiders working within the institution for the past 20 years.
The latest degrees-for-sale scandal is believed to have taken place on the university’s expanded campuses in Kwa-Dlangezwa and Richards Bay, and has resulted in the proposal of an investigation into all postgraduate degrees in law, business management, public administration and education.
Some of the University of Empangeni’s famous fake alumni include none other than Dudu Myeni, chairperson of our choking local airline carrier. Or perhaps that is a little bit harsh, because after Dudu’s not so authentic qualification was uncovered in 2009, she did clarify that the whole thing was just a complete misunderstanding, and that she was still very much in the process of diligently working towards obtaining her BA.
The University of Empangeni has a past, which is chequered with similar scandals, including bribery of staff members by learners that did not meet the minimum requirements for university study, the alteration of academic records so that failing students could graduate, and the sale of fake degrees by a small group of staff members who profited quite significantly until they were eventually suspended. A former student of the university has even come forward to report that for a fee of between R500 and R5000 per module, he personally doctored more than 1000 failing student results.
It seems anything is possible if you’re willing to pay the price. So the question begs. While the bedevilled University makes moves towards cleaning up its own house, how does one identify these bogus degree recipients?
It’s all in the screening process. Never take CVs, LinkedIn profiles or smooth interviews at face value. When searching for candidates to fill a critical position, it goes without saying that you want to ensure that you get the right candidates through the door from the start. We know that not all positions require a qualification from a tertiary institution. But what about past experience, work history, and the candidate’s general career history? Why did they really leave their last place of work? Can they provide solid references?
Every employer is entitled to implement a comprehensive pre-employment screening process as part of the recruitment procedure. It’s a far more complicated process to get unsuitable candidates out once they have been employed, than to keep them out by following the correct process from the outset.