UCD to review procedures after revelations lecturers received doctorates from degree mill

UNIVERSITY College Dublin (UCD) is to review its procedures following revelations that one of its senior academics and a former part-time lecturer received a PhD from a controversial US degree mill.

Yesterday the Irish Examiner revealed the second most senior member of UCD’s School of Physiotherapy, Dr Mary F McAteer, obtained a Doctorate from California-based Pacific Western University (PWU) in 1987.

In addition, a former part-time UCD lecturer and current Institute of Public Administration (IPA) lecturer, Dr Cedric Chau, also received a PhD from the same place in 2001.

Although both academics defended the qualification saying they had done nothing wrong, PWU is renowned as a degree mill and has been at the centre of an ongoing controversy which last week saw Government chief science adviser Barry McSweeney step down.

However in a statement, a UCD spokesperson said a new human resources director had just been appointed and that procedures were being reviewed. Despite calls for an audit of all universities yesterday the Department of Education ruled out the measure saying “it would not be possible to definitively investigate all online awards available throughout the world.”

A spokesperson for Education Minister Mary Hanafin said the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) already provided a “one-stop-shop advisory service” to universities.

“It is a matter for individual employers or learning institutions to satisfy themselves as to the status of awards presented to them - this facility is there to assist them,” the spokesperson said.

But Labour Education spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan called for an immediate investigation into the “legitimacy or otherwise of all third-level qualifications awarded by online institutions”.

“It is clear now that the furore surrounding the legitimacy or otherwise of the degree held by former Government science adviser Barry McSweeney from Pacific Western University was not a one-off.

“Day by day further stories are emerging of academics and public appointees holding qualifications from PWU, and the existence of other unrecognised online bodies that refer to themselves has also been uncovered,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

Ms O’Sullivan said the continuing revelations were doing untold damage to the Irish education system and the reputation of those who work within it.

“The Government cannot sit complacently on the sidelines. They must ensure that the public has full information in relation to all institutions that award academic qualifications so that Ireland’s excellent reputation in this field can be maintained,” she said.

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