Two top lecturers have dodgy degrees

A SENIOR UCD academic and a lecturer in the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) both obtained PhDs from the same unaccredited institution as disgraced Government science adviser Barry McSweeney.

Mr McSweeney was forced to step aside last week amid controversy surrounding a doctorate he received from California-based Pacific Western University (PWU) - a body considered by FBI experts and the US Government as no more than a one-room degree mill.

Subsequently, senior business figure Dr Con Power was also found to have obtained a PhD from the same place.

However, the Irish Examiner can reveal that the second most senior member of UCD’s School of Physiotherapy, Dr Mary F McAteer, also received a 1987 PWU doctorate.

Dr McAteer, a fully qualified physiotherapist, has been a staff member with UCD’s Faculty of Medicine since 1971.

An academic with the Government-sponsored IPA, Dr Cedric Chau, also obtained a PhD from the same place in 2001. He was employed as a lecturer by the IPA last year and features prominently in the institute’s latest prospectus.

Both academics last night confirmed the origin of their PhDs, but stood by their degrees saying they had no idea of any of the problems associated with PWU.

Dr McAteer said she had gone out of her way to ensure PWU was accredited.

“I have absolutely nothing to hide. My work is a little bit specialised. That is one of the reasons that a distance university appealed to me. There was no problem that I was ever aware of and I don’t think there is a problem,” she said.

Although she could not remember the name of her thesis supervisor, Dr McAteer said she had sent work to California over a three-year period and produced a thesis.

A spokeswoman for UCD said PWU had been chosen by Dr McAteer “based on contact with the California State Department for Post Secondary Education” - a legitimate body, but not one accredited to certify university-standard degrees.

Although IPA assistant director general Michael Mulreany did not respond to questions last night, Dr Chau said he had already raised the matter with his superiors.

“I am aware of the controversy and I understand that my appointment is not on the basis of my PhD qualification,” he said.

Dr Chau teaches human resource management while his PhD is in “operations management”.

Dr Chau said he also took three years to complete his PhD research and was never aware of any problems with PWU.

Former National University of Ireland (NUI) Convocation chairman and Biochemistry Professor in University College Cork, James Heffron last night called for a national audit of university staff to ensure all similar cases are dealt with once and for all.

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