You know a university is shady when even a dog can get a Master’s degree. Yes, you heard right – in order to unmask the American University of London (AUOL), BBC Newsnight had Pete the dog apply for an MBA at the American University of London (AUOL). After paying £4,500, the furry “management consultant” actually received his degree.
AUOL is a bogus university which prays on the naivete of people who want to bulk up their resume in preparation for that executive dream-job interview. The so-called educational institution offers distance learning courses that, according to their website, “have been designed to the most exacting standards, in accordance with the most stringent criteria, in order to provide outstanding education at an affordable price.” AUOL then issues corresponding degrees and post-graduate qualifications in business, IT, law, education and liberal arts, humanities and English. Newsnight managed to uncover AUOL’s fraudulent money-making business by setting up a fake identity and CV for the lovely hound Pete. Thus, Peter Smith was born, a management consultant from South London with an undergraduate degree from a real UK University. After e-mailing them his CV and paying £50 – the mandatory application fee, Peter was asked to provide the institution photocopies of his previous qualifications and a photograph of himself. Of course, Pete did not oblige as his resume was made-up and his long dog face could not pass as a real man. Nonetheless, four days later, Pete received a message from AUOL stating that his application for a degree had been processed and that in two weeks he was going to be registered as an MBA graduate. All he had to do was to provide them with £4,500.
Surprised, Pete aka the Newsnight crew, inquired about what kind of work he would have to submit in order to earn that said degree. AUOL said that his 15 years of experience in the field were sufficient to qualify him for an MBA. “No, no, apparently the APEL [Accreditation of Previous Experiential Learning] board awarded him the full degree immediately based on his qualification and his professional experience, so he doesn’t have to do any courses,” AUOL answered. Hundreds of senior executives who had written AUOL qualifications in their resumes, were tracked down by the curious crew just to find out about the kind of painstaking work they had to provide in order to earn their phony credentials. It was no surprise that all of them stated they had worked very hard for their AUOL degrees. A psychologist from Birmingham and expert advisor in court cases, Dr Robert Oakes, submitted such good work that he got his AUOL PhD in just five months. Oaks said that his previous 18 months conducting research had been an asset to him in the process of earning his PhD. Apparently Oakes was very surprised to find out that AUOL wasn’t accredited and has since removed the university’s qualifications from his CV.
Another naive soul and senior nuclear industry executive in charge of selling a new generation of reactors in the UK, Dr Rita Bowser, also has a doctorate degree from AUOL but in business. She earned her degree by submitting “significant amounts of coursework.” We certainly believe Dr Bowser especially since her employer vouches that she is very qualified for her job and has 30 years experience in the field and a master’s from Georgia Tech. During their detective work, Newsnight found out not only that AUOL is not accredited but that it is not even present in London, with their real “headquarters” being St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, as clearly stated on their website. They also claim to be recognized by three also bogus American institutions. Moreover, their highly qualified lecturers haven’t even heard of AUOL. One of the unlucky academics who made it on their website as a supervisor, George Colin, states that “It doesn’t have authority to award degrees. They are not degrees. They are pieces of paper and I’m guessing they are not able to sell very many degrees into countries where English is the first language.”
In spite of the above, you can now breathe easy, because AUOL is a legitimate institution… according to AUOL. “We are not a bogus university… and have always been upfront about our status. We have not applied for accreditation with any American, British or other official agency. Many graduates go on to higher education or hold important positions on the strength of our degrees.” Yes, that might be so, but just ‘cause it’s written on their CV doesn’t make it true.