Gov must respond to bogus PhD claim on science adviser

9 October 2005

Statement by Jan O'Sullivan TD
Minister for Education and Skills

The allegation by the Sunday Independent that the Government's Chief Science Adviser Mr Barry McSweeney has a bogus PhD purchased over the internet from an office in California is very disturbing and has the potential seriously to undermine Ireland's academic reputation.

The website of "Pacific Western University" makes it obvious to anyone familiar with PhD standards that its degrees are academically worthless. To be fooled by it, one would need to be extremely naïve.

The growth of the web has greatly increased the number of bogus universities, many accredited by equally bogus accrediting institutes, issuing worthless degrees over the internet for substantial sums of money.

This is academic fraud and we should combat it by all available means.
Clearly it undermines the validity of legitimate qualifications, particularly if holders of bogus degrees can make it through Irish public service recruitment processes. This is extraordinarily demoralising for those who work hard for their degrees as opposed to buying them over the net.

Mr McSweeney may have excellent skills but he has become involved wittingly or unwittingly in what would appear to be bogus academic awards.

Given that he would have claimed this worthless degree on his c.v. at the time of his application for his current post, the unsuccessful candidates for the post of chief scientific adviser who hold genuine PhD degrees may well be entitled to take legal action if it is established that he obtained his position partly on the strength of a bogus PhD.

All details of the recruitment process for this job must now be disclosed by the Government including whether it was intended that applicants should have a genuine PhD degree.

While the accreditation of qualifications within the state has been regulated by statute in recent years, clearly the checks operated by the State on qualifications from outside the State, particularly for applicants for public service positions, are either totally inadequate or non-existent.

The Government must as matter of urgency introduce statutory mechanisms to enable public and private sector employers to validate the qualifications claimed by employees and job applicants, so that no foolish or unscrupulous job applicant will be able to present a bogus degree to any employer in the State with impunity.

If this matter is not dealt with decisively and immediately, the problem of fraudulent degrees will only get much worse.


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