Saturday

Enterprising Americans put the ‘vice’ into ‘Vice-Chancellor’

I had barely finished delivering this cynical thesis – which includes a swipe at the value of someone’s qualification – when BBC News submitted an essay which I could very well put in my footnotes.

This time it’s the woeful tale of suckers victims who have paid good money for bad qualifications – a fake ‘St Regis’ university which was not based in Washington state has sold degrees which you could have made yourself on Photoshop, or even with some Pritt Stick and careful photocopying - including PhDs for £700.

The fraudsters (although I prefer to think of them as businesspeople who were exploiting a market niche) netted a total student debt of £4,000,000 from nearly 10,000 photocopy-alumni.

Most Uni students I’ve had the pleasure of knowing – being so cash-strapped and all – are too smart to squander such a large sum like the victims of this scam. Given £700 they would make a sound investment like buying 350 subsidised pints in the Union bar. You would not catch a real student frittering £700 away on such ephemera as degree certificates.

Of course I can't be sure just from reading the BBC article, but I have the impression that the former students who were 'totally unaware that the University of St Regis was not a legitimate academic body' have as little credibility as the 'University' itself.

Still, I'm sure a lot of the students at my school are fake, too - they put on these fancy uniforms with badges and ties and Latin mottos and call us 'Sir' or 'Miss' or 'prick', and they think that's enough to call themselves schoolboys and schoolgirls. One of our boys was arrested (not for fraud) and I later saw a social services form listing his occupation as 'schoolboy' - why not 'criminal'?

Well, I can’t sit around here all day giving you this one-to-one tuition - I’ve just had a new order come in – the school wants about 200 sets of GCSEs, A-Levels and SATs and I have to deliver them by next summer. I’d best get the photocopier warmed up. Next thing you know, teachers will be expected to do pupils' coursework for them.

Footnote: I have Googled ‘St Regis’ because I wondered if there actually is a Saint by that name. The closest I’ve found is a Saint John Francis Regis (patron saint of lace makers – thank goodness for him) but most alarmingly I am seeing hotels, a ski-resort, a ‘Mohawk tribe’ and a Catholic University in Colorado all going by the name ‘St Regis’. How will we ever be able to trust what we read on the internet again? Even if it says ‘BBC’ at the top? Even if it says ‘University of Wholesome Socks’?

Next week: serialisation of Hitler's dog's diary.

1 comment:

Michael J. Sheeran, S.J. said...

The real St. John Francis Regis is a Jesuit who died in 1640 and served "down-and-outers" in the Mountain Town of Le Puy in France. After his death, collections for the poor were often named for him and the name Regis became trendy among wealthy Parisians. Hence the use of St. Regis as a highbrow name!

As the President of Regis University -- a Jesuit institution in Denver, Colorado, USA -- I am especially aware of the damage done by degree mills like St. Regis, which has injured the reputation of my school. Founded in 1877, the real Regis has 15,000 students seeking legitimate degrees at our American campuses and online.

In contrast, St. Regis was a fraud masquerading as a legitimate school. It is important that potential students, regulators, and employers differentiate between the legitimate institutions of higher learning and the criminals who cheat the public by using names that trade on the good reputation of real schools.

(Rev.)Michael J. Sheeran, S.J.

 
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