`Irish' university is mobile phoney


A phony "Irish university" is marketing degrees internationally via the Internet. An EL reporter in the US, posing as a prospective student, has been offered an English literature degree from "Glencullen University", without any study, for $960. EL was contacted recently via email by an American man enquiring about the bona fides of Glencullen University. The college's website offers a detailed and plausible description of its Dublin complex, home to a trampolining club, a bus service to the halls of residence and even "a Muslim Prayer Room on the main campus". It also lists about 100 academic programmes, all available via "distance learning".

The college's address is a nonexistent one on "Waterloo Street", and the telephone number - which it shares with "Shelbourne University", a similar institution - connects only to an answering machine. Efforts by The Irish Times to contact the college by telephone and e-mail were unsuccessful.

However, an e-mail purporting to be from a New Jersey-based prospective English-literature student was more successful: a response, from admissions-office@yahoo.com, asked for a phone number where the student could be contacted.

Last Wednesday, at approximately 2 a.m. Irish time, Mr Tony Kent, purporting to be a "registrar", contacted the US student. Mr Kent told the student that because of his obvious "intelligence and life experience, better than any college", he could graduate him immediately from Glencullen University.

Mr Kent asked the would-be student what level of honours he would like to be conferred with, and told him that if English literature didn't work out for him, he had up to a year to alter his choice of academic discipline. Mr Kent also asked what would be a suitable date on the diploma, and they agreed on June 1994.

Then Mr Kent asked: "Now, how are we going to pay for your education?"

He said that tuition was normally $1,400, plus $60 shipping and handling, but he was prepared to offer a $500 discount. For this price he could offer the degree, plus a smaller laminated copy of it, and letters of recommendation from professors on request - "they're always in your corner." He could not offer a college t-shirt.

Payment would be by credit card. When our "student" expressed concern about his parents seeing the item on the credit-card bill, Mr Kent assured him that "it comes through under a different name - they'd never know what it's for".

Mr Kent supplied a British telephone number - he was on the London campus, he said. When EL telephoned, the phone was answered: "Registrar's office", but no one was prepared to answer a reporter's questions. The number is that of a mobile phone.