Education Ministry posts alert after its logo is used in Facebook ad

The Bestprofessionaldegrees.com site and the Facebook link (above) showing the MOE crest and the claim that the site's offer has the ministry's seal of approval. -- PHOTO: PEARL LEE
The Bestprofessionaldegrees.com site and the Facebook link (above) showing the MOE crest and the claim that the site's offer has the ministry's seal of approval. -- PHOTO: PEARL LEE
The Bestprofessionaldegrees.com site (above) and the Facebook link (top, right) showing the MOE crest and the claim that the site's offer has the ministry's seal of approval.
The Bestprofessionaldegrees.com site (above) and the Facebook link (top, right) showing the MOE crest and the claim that the site's offer has the ministry's seal of approval.PHOTOS: ST PHOTO ILLUSTRATION, PEARL LEE

Get a degree "approved" by the Ministry of Education (MOE) based on your "life experiences". No classes needed.

A Facebook advertisement for what appears to be an online degree mill that uses the MOE logo has been making the rounds, prompting the ministry to put out an alert to the public.

The advertisement, which links users to a Bestprofessionaldegrees.com website, is also accompanied by text that reads "Approved by the Singapore Ministry of Education & US Department of Education. Enroll now".

On the website, users are asked to leave their particulars and indicate the degree in which they are interested. Options include an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a doctorate degree.

When The Straits Times signed up for a degree, a man who claimed to be a Calvin Carter from Ashley University in San Francisco said the school could provide a bachelor's degree on journalism for US$1,800 (S$2,300), purely based on a person's "life experiences".

Attending classes is not required as "prior knowledge and life experiences can be converted to a degree".

He added that the degree had been attested and approved by the Singapore Embassy in the United States and by the MOE here.

Once payment was made, the student would receive the full set of documents in 10 days. The documents would include a degree certificate, a certificate of distinction, a certificate of membership, an award of excellence, and a complete transcript detailing all the journalism modules.

An online search for Ashley University threw up a website which describes the school as "one of the leading universities online worldwide" with 38,000 students. There is no address on the website. A person who answered the phone said the school conducts only online classes.

Alerted to the advertisement, MOE on Wednesday posted a notice on its Facebook page to warn the public that the MOE logo "is being used without authorisation by ads on Facebook that claim to offer degrees approved by MOE".

"Members of the public are advised to conduct their checks on the authenticity of the degrees offered," it said.

A ministry spokesman told The Straits Times that it is not associated with the Bestprofessionaldegrees website and the company.

The ministry has not received any complaints from victims.

The Straits Times understands that it is hard to conduct checks or take legal action against such companies as it is difficult to track down the person or group behind them.

There is no central body in Singapore that assesses or grants recognition for degrees obtained from overseas universities.

MOE advises students to check with the embassy or high commission of the country where the university is located.

Professional degrees such as those in engineering and medicine should be recognised by the respective professional bodies here, such as the Professional Engineers Board.

MP Denise Phua, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, said MOE should study the matter and "set up a system to protect its value".

This is to ensure individuals or corporations do not exploit the MOE brand, she said.

"Ignoring this in the long term will negatively impact the global brand of our home-grown local schools and tertiary institutions, and Singaporeans who choose to further study or work abroad."

leepearl@sph.com.sg