KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Buying yourself a degree rather than actually studying for it isn't a new phenomenon.
Many people, politicians included, take the easy way out when it comes to obtaining tertiary education or higher qualifications.
The many degree mills that have mushroomed over the last few years is testament to this.
But the controversy involving Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya has once again shone the spotlight firmly back on the business of fake degrees.
Marzuki claimed that he obtained his business administration degree from Cambridge International University via a distance learning programme.
Cambridge International University offers distance learning programmes with degree courses costing US$5,000 (S$6,795) but on its website, the university admits that it has not been accredited by an agency recognised by the US Secretary of Education.
This alone should set off alarm bells for any person intending to pursue a distance learning programme.
Marzuki, also a senator, must now be regretting listing his degree as part of his credentials. He certainly isn't the first politician to be embroiled in a dubious degree row, and one suspects he won't be the last.
To be fair, there's nothing wrong with pursuing a distance learning course.
These types of programmes are considerably cheaper than a typical undergraduate course in a university and they also allow for flexibility for those people who already have jobs and are looking to get a tertiary qualification.
Private education does not come cheap these days and a distance learning programme is a boon to many people who otherwise may not be able to obtain a degree.
But please verify the accreditation or quality assurance status of the programmes offered by these universities before you make your decision.
Most countries have an accreditation system which the public can access, with different countries having different regulations and arrangements for quality assurance.
In Malaysia, we have the Malaysian Qualifications Agency and its website http://www2.mqa.gov.my/mqr provides a registry of recognised qualifications for easy public reference.
It is surprising though that people in powerful positions continue to crave acceptance or an increased social standing by buying fake degrees.
In fact, the more prominent a person, the more impressive his qualification appears to be.
At one time fake MBAs were all the rage, but now even a master's degree isn't enough.
The latest trend is to buy yourself a PhD.
These "doctorates" immediately give you a sense of importance with the prefix "Dr" in front of your name.
A simple Google search is all it takes to debunk or expose these type of credentials.
You may have fooled your peers or your employer with a fake qualification, but there will always be the fear that the diploma hanging in your office will one day be exposed.
Embarrassment lurks around the corner.
Ultimately though, there is no shortcut to obtaining a tertiary education.
You will have to pay for it, of course, but you would also need to put in the hours - either in a conventional classroom environment or via distance learning.
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