• 14 Aug, 2022

Fake Degrees in Guyana, Trinidad, Caribbean

Fake Degrees in Guyana, Trinidad, Caribbean

Fake Degrees in Guyana, Trinidad, Caribbean

Guyanese, Trinis and West Indians in general are awed or obsessed and possessed with ‘doctor politics’ and doctor title, the concept that those with “Dr” in front a name carries knowledge, expertise, respect and prestige. The ‘doctor’ is treated with reverence. This laudable recognition by the public leads to some Guyanese pursuing doctorate. However, some pursue ‘doctorate’ for sinister objective to deceive and fool a gullible public. There are several Guyanese, Trinis, other West Indians with questionable credentials in government and as educators. Others, like me for example, pursued it for a skill to make a meaningful contribution to society or to earn an honest living as I did as an educator. Government should offer scholarships to youngsters to pursue doctorate in STEM subjects to serve the nation.

People tend to be awe-struck with those who are referred to as ‘doctor’, seeing them as brilliant even if not. Some mistakenly believe that ‘doctor’ equals medical or dentistry. Some local Guyanese came to me for medical advice; I am not medical doctor. Anyone can be conferred the title doctor if successfully pursue a course of study at an accredited university. It is a title earned from a course of academic studies (like Biology or History or Engineering or some other subject) or through lifetime achievements for contributions towards society. The latter is called an honorary doctorate conferred by an accredited university on selected well known figures. The public tends to show deference for those with doctorates regardless if earned from academia or honorary. The public is supportive of and admire those with the title of doctor and tends to gravitate towards them in politics or community affairs or other aspects of life as they did towards Cheddi Jagan, Eric Williams, etc. But having a doctorate does not make someone smarter or better than those without it. Not everyone with the doctor title is actually a doctor (medical, technical, science, academic, etc). There are fraudsters who call themselves doctor to impress or deceive the public. There are some who buy the title, as separate from those who studied a particular academic subject at graduate school at a recognized accredited university. There are some who have been conferred honorary doctorates for lifetime achievement and deservingly so; among the latter are Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Dr Yesu Persaud, Dr Vishnu Bandhu, etc. Among those who studied for a doctorate are Tarron Khemraj, Ashni Singh, Irfaan Ali (President), David Dabydeen, Ramesh Gampat, Clive Thomas, Omowale, Tara Singh, Somdat Mohabir, Ganga Ramdass, Gary Girdharie, Kumar Mahabir,  Lomarsh Roopnarine, Leslie Ramsammy, Swami Aksharananda, Baytoram Ramharack, Paloma Mohamed, myself, and so many others. Then there are the medical or dental doctors like Bobbie Ramroop, Clive Jagan, Reyad Rahman, etc. There are also divinity doctors — granted a doctorate in bible studies. And some have doctorate in Education EdD). Then there are what are known as the ‘kak’ doctors who purchased degrees at universities without walls. They didn’t pursue a course of study. They paid for a diploma of several thousand American dollars from a diploma mill with a university name. You pay for degree and it is mailed to u within days of receipt of the money. There is no study involved. It does not mean that those who purchased degrees are not talented or lack abilities and skills. Some are very bright, very articulate, and skillful and have ability to pursue a course of study for a PhD. I know of kak degree holders who write extremely well and or own or managed successful businesses. Some also do well at government offices. A purchased diploma is not recognized and is not meant for use for hiring purposes although some gullible businesses may unknowingly accept such a diploma for hiring and promotion.

There are several Guyanese who have kak doctorates. Some use it to fool a gullible public. No university in Guyana is accredited to award a doctorate except for UG medical school. Private universities in Guyana are known to issue degrees, including medical degrees and PhD that are not recognized in many places. Some are linked to other online universities awarding degrees. They don’t have a course of study. Universities in America and many other countries tend not to accept them for admission into higher degree programs. There are students who pursue on line degree course of study; they are not taken seriously by other regular academic colleges although the degree is recognized. Many Guyanese, as a result of Covid, are now enrolled in online courses. Some Indian universities are offering scholarships on line for a degree course of study. Online courses don’t provide the same level of discipline and knowledge as in person education.

Those with a genuine (academic) doctorate tend to purse a lengthy course of study that takes minimum seven years full time and many more years part time.  I studied full time as did several others like Ramharack, Khemraj, Ramsammy, Mohabir, Mahabir, etc. In my case, I did multiple doctorates. In the USA, one gains admission into a doctoral program after completion of an undergraduate (Bachelor’s degree) in a chosen subject of specialization. Some universities require admission and completion of a Master’s Degree before acceptance into the doctoral program for the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) as was the case with me and so many other Guyanese. The undergraduate degree is four years full time course of study with specialization in a subject; in my case, it was Bio-Chemistry. The Masters is minimum one year full time plus a comprehensive exam and a thesis — that could take up to another year. And the PhD is minimum two years full time plus two written comprehensive exams, two oral exams, a lengthy (of some 300 pages) dissertation. Some dissertations are known to be up to 500 pages. And a defense of the dissertation is mandatory, called a viva. The dissertation is not a term paper; a fifty page paper is not a thesis or dissertation. A dissertation must be on a new, original concept not previously studied. There is a methodology that must be followed in research and writing. Students are known to fail the dissertation — in the writing, or research, or oral presentation. They are questioned about it. The student body is invited to the defense and can ask questions. The faculty team of minimum three examiners and an outside campus examiner decides on pass or fail and whether to recommend granting the PhD. The faculty could require revision of the dissertation and re-examination.

To pursue a degree in the USA, students take courses with each worth a number of fixed credits. If they pass the course, with grades A thru D, credits are awarded. One course is three or four credits; D is a bare pass and too many Ds lead to expulsion from the university. An overall C grade is needed for a degree. A total of 128 to 132 credits (some 32 in a specific subject) are required for a Bachelor degree. (Some forty courses are needed for a BA degree, some ten of which must be in a specialized subject like Economics or politics or Chemistry, etc). I completed my degree with 172 credits, 40 in excess. And additional 30 credits or ten courses are required for the MA and 60 credits or 20 courses for the PhD (MA credits included if in same subject).

Guyanese, Trinis, and others should desist from pursuing kak or fake degrees as it does not lead to meaningful learning or acquisition of technical and academic skills. Governments should encourage youngsters to pursue doctorate with a commitment to serving nation.

Yours truly,

Vishnu Bisram

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr. Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a holder of multiple degrees in the natural sciences, social sciences, and education. He taught for over forty years in the US. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling globally to research and write about Indian communities.