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'Plagiarised' MBA application raises bogus degree concerns

More concerns have emerged about the rise of private businesses selling worthless degrees after a graduate from one of many unrecognised "universities" was caught applying for a PhD programme with a plagiarised masters dissertation.

John Arnold, a professor at Loughborough University's Business School, told The Times Higher this week that he had rejected an application from a masters graduate of the private Irish International University (IIU), after noticing that more than a third of his thesis was quite obviously plagiarised from an academic paper freely available on the internet.

Professor Arnold said that he was concerned that three months after he raised the plagiarism with the IIU, it had failed to act, and he warned that the student had indicated he would seek a place elsewhere.

Investigations by The Times Higher have uncovered serious questions about the academic credentials of the IIU.

British accountant Jeff Wooller, who was fined by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1995 for advertising unaccredited MBA courses, is described as vice-chancellor of the IIU.

Dr Wooller's institutions include "St Clements University", a private institution registered in the West Indies, and the Irish Business School, which The Times Higher exposed in 2002 for making false claims to accreditation.

Registered as a company in Ireland, the IIU has an "international campus" in London's Westminster Bridge Road, under the umbrella of London Executive Schools. The IIU says it is accredited by an organisation called the Commission for Continuous Learning UK - which has the same Westminster Bridge Road address as the IIU's London Executive Schools.

The IIU also lists the European Commission among the bodies it claims to be "accredited" by. But the letter to the IIU from the Commission displayed on the website merely confirms that the European Union has no remit over the accreditation of any universities.

The Irish Department of Education and Science said: "We don't recognise or fund that university." The British Council said that it did not recognise, accredit or endorse the IIU, or the various accrediting agencies it lists on its website.

Loughborough's Professor Arnold warned that the IIU masters graduate had indicated he would seek a PhD place elsewhere. Professor Arnold said the case demonstrated the need for extreme vigilance where there is doubt over an applicant's credentials. "It shows the value of asking to read applicants' work before accepting them onto courses," he said.

This week, a spokesman for the Irish institution said its investigation into the allegations was on-going, as it had not been able to contact the masters graduate. Dr Wooller did not respond to The Times Higher 's attempts to contact him.

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