Saturday, February 17, 2018

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe arrested for conferring doctorate on former first lady

The vice-chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe has apparently been arrested on charges of conferring a doctoral degree without approval by the university council, according to Times Live. The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has accused him of conferring a doctorate on Grace Mugabe, the wife of the former president of Zimbabwe, although no one in the sociology department had seen a research proposal‚ read any progress reports, or learned of the outcome of any research, the Times Live writes. The Zimbabwean Standard had expressed surprise in 2014 that she was awarded a PhD in sociology just three years after obtaining a bachelor's degree in Chinese Language by distance from the People’s University of China. Her husband was at that time also the chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe. The state-owned Herald lauded her work while the UK Guardian was quite critical.

The degree was conferred in 2014, the thesis, “The Changing Social Structures and Functions of the Family: The Case of Children’s Homes in Zimbabwe”, was apparently not available online until January 2018. According to NewsdzeZimbabwe, the thesis was published under her maiden name (Grace Ntombizodwa Marufu) on the UZ web site. Indeed, there is an entry on the library page of the UZ for Ntombizodwa G. Marufu, but no link to a PDF. Google finds a link, but the server does not respond. However, the table of contents can be found in a number of places, and the thesis itself appears to have been deposited at scribd in January 2018.

Update: The Zimbabwe Independent calls the thesis a fraud.
"Social Commentator Maxwell Saungweme described Grace’s PhD as the biggest academic fraud of the century.
“It’s not a PhD thesis but a mere compilation of plagiarised text and quotations from grey literature, newspaper articles, television and radio programmes. It does not contribute original ideas to knowledge. It also cites prominently very old sources such as 1978 and 1985 works. A lot of scientific reviews have been done to this literature, and academic work must cite recent scientific journals and books,” Saungweme said. [...] Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya, commenting on social media, criticised Grace’s PhD thesis and questioned why there are citations from the years 2016 and 2017 yet, scandalously, Grace graduated in 2014."
I can't find any citations from 2016 or 2017 in the version I found online, however. Interesting is Chapter 5 (p. 153): "Grace Mugabe Children’s Home was singled out as a model." This is a home the author runs herself. She does mention this a few pages later (p. 155): "I carried out this study when I was owner and founder of Grace Mugabe Children’s Home."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pakistani diploma mill

The British BBC reports that thousands of fake diplomas from a Pakistani diploma mill have been purchased by UK nationals. The company Axact is said to have set up hundreds of "universities" that only exist in their online presence, using stock photos for campus and student life imagery and including "news" stories that never happened. The telephone numbers for universities with names such as "Brooklyn Park University" and "Nixon University" are said to be connected to a call center in Karachi.

Apparently, a new side business in extortion and blackmail has opened up, with a telephone caller who is faking the caller id pretending to be the police. The caller threatens arrest unless additional documents are produced to back up the degree. Such documents appear to also be for sale at the "institutions."

The New York Times reported in 2015 on Axact, leading to a senior manager of Axact being sentenced to 21 months prison in the US in August 2017, according to the BBC. A Pakistani investigation seems to be stalled at the moment.