There was an interesting article in today's Malaysia Chronicle in which a prominent politician who is a sitting Menteri Besar or Chief Minister of a state in Malaysia whose PhD from Newport University California (which was quoted by the gentleman concerned to have been renamed Janus University) was the subject of debate. This article aims to take an objective look at the issue and let the reader decide based solely on the facts uncovered by us.
What P3 says:
1. MQA Registry of Qualifications
The key question to ask, is really not whether the MQA has this entity (either Newport University or Janus University) listed in its registry of qualifications. This is because MQA's list is pertaining to qualifications offered and conferred almost entirely by institutions IN Malaysia or those from overseas institutions that have collaborations with Malaysian colleges. Clearly as the article has pointed out, this is not the case. Interestingly, University of Wales has a 18 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes listed in MQA's registry and University of Wales is also listed as "Luar Negara". This means that, MQA's registry does contain qualifications of institutions which do not offer their programmes locally.
Hence whether a foreign institution's qualifications appear in MQA's registry should not be used as a means to measure the accreditation status of that institution. However in this case, since the said gentleman's qualification was obtained in Malaysia, it implies that the local private institution in which this qualification was offered did not comply with the Private Higher Education Act (ACTA 555). The other deduction is that this provider was (or still is, if it is still around) not a bone fide IPTS (approved private institution of higher learning) and thus, prior to the amendment to ACTA 555, there was no need for it to be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (later Higher Education) and hence Lembaga Akreditasi Negara (the former name of MQA).
Based on our own knowledge of the private higher education industry, Newport University did have a local operation in the late 1990s and up to early 2000s which was operated by an entrepreneur from Hong Kong (who had a similar operation there). Thus the gentleman's claim of his having to work for the award may have some credence as we have known a former senior staff of Newport University's operation in Malaysia who had confirmed with us that there would be significant learning inputs from the part of the students. However, what we are not able to ascertain is the standard, rigour, breadth and depth of the knowledge gained and generated by someone at doctorate level from Newport University, California.
2. Is Newport University an accredited institution?
We have checked with the relevant official sites (including the CHEA and GetEducated.com) and found that Newport University is not recognized by any of the accreditation agencies officially accepted by the Department of Education of the US to carry out accreditation of higher education institutions. Hence the gentleman's claim of Newport University being internationally recognized does not tally with the facts. In addition, contrary to the gentleman's claim that Newport University has been re-designated as Janus University, we have indeed been able to reach Newport's website: http://www.newportuniversity.edu.lv/ but this time the site claims that Newport is now located in Europe! The website of Janus University, California (http://www.janusuniversity.edu/) was not reachable.
There are thousands of institutions of higher learning in the US and the majority take the learning and certification aspect, i.e. accreditation very seriously. It is therefore not difficult for one to locate an accredited institution (all one has to do is to approach bone fide private colleges which have American Degree Transfer Program or Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE)). However, almost in all cases we are talking about students either going to the US directly or via a 2+2 American Degree Transfer Program with one of the major private colleges locally and transfer to the US after studying locally for 2 years. As far as we can tell, no private colleges were, in 2002, approved to provide PhD programmes in collaboration with any local or foreign institutions of higher learning. But there were (and still are) many providers who are not approved private colleges providing such postgraduate studies, especially in the early 2000s.
We think that the gentleman concerned, back in 2002 was not aware of the intricacy of the mechanism of accreditation and accredited institutions. We have reasons (based on our own experience and exposure with people associated with Newport University) to believe that the gentleman concerned had attended many classes, done lots of work for the doctorate degree. We do not however, since we do not have any way of evaluating the doctoral thesis and other relevant work of the said PhD, have any way to ascertain the standard of the PhD awarded. We can firmly opine that the said PhD is not from an accredited institution. How is the learning outcomes achieved by the gentleman concerned and how well these are applied to his work remains the prerogative of his peers in the Government and his voters.
One of our readers in the US (whom has given us permission to quote his response here) says:
Our investigation shows that Newport University (aka Janus University) is not and never was an accredited institution in the US. Therefore their degrees are worthless. The latest developments and their European location do not change that.