Monday, November 07, 2016

Pompous title, bogus title?

MM Online - Govt to introduce PhD registry to curb academic fraud

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 — The Ministry of Higher Education announced today its plan to set up a national directory that will automatically register those who graduate with a doctorate degree from a local university.

It said the move is in accordance to the University and University Colleges Act 1971 (Act 30) and the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act (Act 555) to regulate the use of the “Dr” title among PhD holders, which it acknowledged to be the most commonly abused academic qualification locally.

“The setting up of this registry is to facilitate and complement existing laws in addition to the legal safeguards provided under the Penal Code which allows for criminal action to be taken against the production and usage of fraudulent academic titles.

“The Ministry believes that this move will ensure credible use of academic titles, enable the public to verify information, and deter bogus issuance of academic certificates,” it said in a statement this evening.

The registry initiative comes after questions were raised over the academic qualifications of a prominent motivational speaker Azizan Osman whose website previously stated he had been conferred several doctorates from local and foreign universities, honorary and otherwise, but was later refuted one by one, starting with Universiti Malaya (UM), the country’s oldest university, as early as September.

"What's in a name! that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title."

- William Shakespeare - Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II

I feel this move is straying into the realms of ridiculousness, which BTW, seems to be standard fare for Malaysia, wakakaka.

It's the job of universities, not a government department to maintain such a registry. Unless that government department wishes to employ the person in a job which requires a PhD, or a fraudulent case involves the use of such a title, there is no need to bother looking into the authenticity of such a title.

But nonetheless it shows how much our society gives credit to paper qualifications. In Australia I work with people under me who hold PhD's but who never go by the pompous titles of 'Doctor's'.

That title is okay in an formal academic or semi-academic environment. But in my workplace the far more important thing my company looks for is results from its staff, not mere academic titles.

My uncle told me about a story some decades ago about a man who was the head of a government ... , let's call it ... a semi-ministry. He was an elegantly dressed and elegantly groomed man who was not only addressed for years as 'Doctor' but 'Datuk Doctor'. He spoke well, in fact rather eloquently.

Subsequently it was discovered he did NOT have a PhD. In defence he said he had never claimed to have one, and that it was initially his subordinates and then his clientele who addressed him as 'Doctor'. He further asserted he was merely being polite in not correcting them as it was a trivial issue.

But his critics pointed out he signed many formal letters with that bogus title. Eventually (I think, but this was then still Malaysia, you know, wakakaka, where disgraced government servants would usually be posted sideways and possibly promoted) he left his 'semi-ministry' under a personal dark cloud.

The sad thing about that scandal has been that he was actually an effective and efficient administrator, and his performance a credit to both the 'semi-ministry' he was in charge of and also to the government.

But that discovery about the bogus title unfortunately left a bad stinking smear on an otherwise brilliant career. His adoring staff and friends were truly devastated.

By the by, he even had an impressively elegant name and sometime my uncle did wonder whether that too was bogus.

Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.

- William Shakespeare - Richard II, Act II. Scene I

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