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Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Silence of the Deans

There is a connection between the fraud perpetrated by education agents in China (and elsewhere) and the unethical practices of major multi-national banks. You’ll find the intersection at many Business schools at many well known universities. How so ? Highly educated Deans have been silent on the subject, and just like the education agents and bankers, the silence has been bought and paid for.

The cheating in China is well documented and gone on for years. The two most respected publications writing on international education – the New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote on it yet again last week, quoting a report that “90 percent of Chinese applicants submit false recommendations, 70 percent have other people write their personal essays, 50 percent have forged high-school transcripts, and 10 percent list academic awards and other achievements they did not receive.” Of course, Chinese education agents make tens of millions of dollars, charging each applicant several thousand dollars for their “assistance”, so they are highly motivated to send any applicant they can, real or fake.

The article does not point out that the vast majority of these students are bound for business schools abroad. Business, is by far the degree program of choice for Chinese. So whether it is Foundation programs leading to a BComm, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or an MBA or Masters of Finance or Management – these are all the typical targets of Chinese families and their agent representatives seeking admissions, real or fake (and we know there are huge numbers of fraud.)

This is no secret, yet it is barely is audible above a whisper in the hallways of academe in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, etc. The Deans know that many of their students are not good, and even that a good number are not bona fide. But when you need to balance budgets and pay for the high-price salaries and pension responsibilities of the faculty and administration – universities are simply turning a blind eye and taking the money. Due diligence be damned. Academic integrity is buried alive.

So when Citigroup agreed last month to pay $285 million in a settlement admitting to defrauding customers (they already had a record of doing so previously), and all other major banks have done the same (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, etc), it’s no stretch to draw their bankruptcy of integrity in a straight line from their board rooms to Business school classrooms.

Canadian banks are of course smug with how they have stood apart in the recent times of financial turmoil. True enough. But the virus is catching, and if you listen quietly, you hear the whispers at Canadian business schools just barely audible above the silence.

“Are these credentials for real? They list 90% Class 12 grades but the student is barely passable.”
“I heard these kids paid their agent five thousand dollars. Should we be a party to that ?”
“For someone with a 100 TOEFL, how can he barely have any English skills ?”
Shhhhhh…quiet…it’s not good for business.



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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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