Sunday, January 20, 2008

Honor Among Thieves

All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education. - Sir Walter Scott

I've resided in the United Arab Emirates since my birth. I've seen it develop from a deserted town to a concrete jungle full of skyscrapers. I've also studied here; I completed my schooling as well as my undergraduate studies in Sharjah itself.

I've been acquainted with Preston University since its inception in the United Arab Emirates. Its initial avatar here was an institute known as the Academy of Technologies that had been set up in a building that had previously housed the Center of American Education in Deira. I visited it after completing my O-Levels & was impressed by its initial offering of programs (I was interested in the BSIT program) and requested my mother to enrol me; My mom refused outright......She said I had to do my A-Levels first.

In the meanwhile, the Academy of Technologies underwent some upheavals; It was shifted to Ajman and it's name was "officially" changed to Preston University, Ajman. It gained prominence surprisingly from the launch of its Bachelors in Islamic Studies Program (BAIS) which was then headed by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips. Other prominent scholars such as Riad Ansari, Abdul Qayyum Bastawi and Abdul Majeed Alee Hasan Bapu were also part of its faculty for a while. The department declined after all of these scholars left for various reasons. The head of the department is now Dr. Waseem Ahmed who is regarded by his students as an authority on Tafsir.

The United States of America require that public and private universities acquire accreditation from one of the following bodies (These have been pasted from Wikipedia):
Middle States Association of Colleges & Schools - Commission on Higher Education
New England Association of Schools & Colleges - Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
North Central Association of Colleges & Schools - Higher Learning Commission
Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities
Southern Association of Colleges & Schools - Commission on Colleges
Western Association of Schools & Colleges

Preston is not accredited by ANY of these bodies. If you visit their "official" website, they claim the following:

Preston University is dedicated to delivery of the highest quality educational experience to each of its enrolled students around the world. However, Preston is not accredited by a United States Department of Education recognized accrediting body. The following statements reflect Preston's present legal and academic status.

1. State governments have full authority to control academic institutions and to authorize schools to issue academic degrees and certificates. This control is implemented through the state licensing process. The United States federal government does not authorize nor control degree-granting schools in any way. Preston University is legally licensed by the State of Alabama and is officially authorized to award all levels of post-secondary academic degrees. Those degrees may be recognized at the discretion of employers, governments or other academic institutions, as they deem appropriate.

Well the basic recognition for U.S. Undergraduate degrees is regional accreditation. Apparently. Preston do not have this.

2. In the United States, post-secondary academic institutions have established private associations with the intention to create organizational and procedural standards to ensure consistent delivery of academic programs. These private associations of member schools administer the "accreditation" process in the U.S. Accreditation is a fully voluntary, non-governmental process. All accredited institutions conform to the standards of the accrediting body, thus simplifying the evaluation and acceptance of credits among member schools. The U.S. Department of Education certifies selected accrediting associations to identify the member schools as acceptable for award of federal financial assistance. The federal government itself does not accredit schools, nor does it evaluate the quality of schools.

Accreditation is important since it insures quality and adherence to academic standards. It is also important for the acceptance and transfer of college credit and is also a prerequisite for many graduate programs.

3. Because Preston University is not accredited by a post-secondary school association, many U.S. schools may not immediately accept Preston credits or degrees for transfer into their programs. Aside from academic institutions, most U.S. businesses and many state and local governments will accept the academic credentials of Preston students and graduates.

We’ll see more regarding this later.

4. The Preston University degree is valid and official. The State of Alabama authorizes Preston to issue the degrees, and the state evaluators conduct periodic inspections of the university to ensure Preston adheres to all applicable state laws.

It depends on what they mean by valid and official……..And let’s see what they mean by the authorization of the State of Alabama.

Initially, Preston University claimed to be based in Wyoming. When state laws became tougher, they moved operations to Alabama, where laws are laxer. Their initial accreditation statement stated: “Preston University has an affiliation with Preston University, USA, which is approved and licensed by the Wyoming State Department of Education, USA, and is accredited by the World Association of Universities and Colleges, Nevada, USA.” The WAUC is not recognized by the US Department of Education and is quite well known for accrediting “diploma mills.” Check out the following articles:

The Chronicle of Higher Education
March 15, 2007
Retrieved from

Diploma-Mill Crackdown in Wyoming Sends Preston U. to Sweet Home in Alabama

In response to a crackdown on diploma mills in Wyoming, an entity known as “Preston University” is moving part of its operations to Alabama, where laws are laxer. According to the Associated Press, the institution will continue to operate an online business program in Wyoming under the name “Fairmount International University.” It has campuses in Pakistan and Dubai as well. In 2001 Preston was caught pretending that it employed professors that it, in fact, did not. Wyoming, once a haven for dubious institutions, has since gotten tougher, causing a number of diploma mills and similar operations to flee or otherwise to shift gears.

So we can see that Preston University has a history of shady practices (Claiming to employ faculty that it didn’t) and is being identified as a diploma mill. The Preston website page that listed part-time faculty in 2001 has vanished, making it difficult for outsiders to investigate their credentials. Q Isa Daudpota elaborates: “In 2001 Preston listed 49 faculty members, which included William Lieberman and Kenneth Dolbeare [Lieberman was a student advisor at South California University for Professional Studies; Dolbeare taught political science at University of Colorado, Denver]. Both were selected at random and contacted by the Chronicle. Both claimed that they were not associated with Preston and did not know of their names being on the Preston’s faculty list!” (Dubious universities and the future of higher education in Pakistan. Dated November 4, 2004. Retrieved from

Chronicle of Higher Education
From the issue dated March 23, 2001 Retrieved from

States Struggle to Regulate Online Colleges That Lack Accreditation
Preston University, for example, claims to have 30 "affiliated" campuses in 19 countries, and virtually all of its students are abroad. Abdul Basit, the university's president, is a native of Pakistan who rarely visits the university building at the airport in Cheyenne. According to Jerry P. Haenisch, who is chancellor and chief executive officer of Preston, the university has about 8,000 students, the bulk of whom are in Pakistan. About 18 students take classes on the Preston campus, and, by the end of 2002, the university expects to have completed its own building near the airport. It now leases the building it occupies. Mr. Haenisch says that half of the university's operating income comes from nine campuses in Pakistan. The rest comes from other campuses worldwide and from the university's distance-learning program, which enrolls about 300 students. Preston recruits distance-learning students through advertisements in international periodicals such as The Economist, and attracts between seven and 10 new students per month, most of them interested in business. Students and faculty members exchange exams and assignments through express mail, Mr. Haenisch says. The tuition for distance-learning students ranges from $4,950 for an associate degree to as much as $9,950 for a bachelor's degree. He says faculty members are paid $100 to create a course syllabus, $50 to grade an exam, $250 to evaluate a masters' thesis, and $1,250 to supervise a candidate for a doctorate. While Mr. Haenisch readily spouts facts and figures about his university, his remarks about accreditation appear at odds with some of the university's promotional material. He says Preston eventually would like to become accredited but cannot afford the expense of having each of its campuses evaluated. The university also would be too confined by accreditation, he says -- specifically by the requirement that an institution have full-time faculty members. Preston, which has no full-time faculty, relies instead on adjunct instructors who are affiliated with other institutions. "We can live with or without it," says Mr. Haenisch. "We're definitely going to seek it, but we'll have to wait until we build our income stream." Nonetheless, the university's Web site ( puts it this way: "Presently, the University is pursuing accreditation through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting body." Regardless of whether or when Preston will get accreditation, Mr. Haenisch admits that he has faced the unpleasant task of leveling with angry graduates who discover that, because the university is unaccredited, their Preston degrees will not help them obtain the jobs they seek. What does he tell them? "We're sorry, you'll have to get the job on other merits, other than your degree," he says.

I have 3 points to emphasize:

1) When marketing their institution, they always claim that their campuses are affiliated to Preston University, U.S.A. When I visited the Academy of Technologies in 2000, they told me the same……Yet they had only 18 students enrolled in the US campus in 2001…….So what is Preston University, U.S.A.? Is it a single room or a set of rooms?

2) According to Haenisch’s comments, he doesn’t think that acquiring accreditation is an important issue (Q Isa Daudpota points out that “The accreditation would require the institute to have full-time faculty – Preston has none. (Dubious universities and the future of higher education in Pakistan. Dated November 4, 2004. Retrieved from

3) The degree often has no credibility with potential employers.

This aspect is sad…..I was mortified to find out about Preston postgraduate’s experience whilst job hunting:

Retrieved from

Hi thereI am a Cambodia student that study at Preston University.I transfer my job to Sydney australia and they don t recognize my MBA degree. THey say that Preston have history of providing fake degrees.DOes anyone know about thisANgry student from Cambodia

And then there is the Pakistani connection. The bulk of Preston’s campuses are in Pakistan. Preston University’s President is Mr. Abdul Basit. Their status is explained by Q Isa Daudpota:

The Sindh government granted a charter to the Preston Institute of Management Science and Technology on 31 July 2001, while Preston University, Kohat got its charter in Nov 2002, and Preston University, Karachi, in February 2004. All three appear on the page of approved universities at the website of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC). That a university with a shady past, unaccredited in its home country, USA, has managed to get three members of its family accredited in Pakistan speaks for the situation of higher education in this country. That’s not the end of it. A charter given by a province is only valid within that province – Preston only has charters in Sindh and NWFP; its campuses in other provinces (5 in Punjab, one each in Balochistan and Islamabad) continue to function unchecked and unauthorized. (Dubious universities and the future of higher education in Pakistan. Dated November 4, 2004. Retrieved from

Additionally, this blogger has learned that you can actually “purchase” a degree from Preston University, Ajman for a price of about AED 25,000 without completing any coursework. That’s right true believers!!!! And for attesting your degree, they charge you AED 1500 although the Ministry of Higher Education charges only AED 75 (Although they are not accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education). Where are the other AED 1425 going? The University’s pocket is anyone’s guess (Blogger's note: Specific cases references available on request).

Preston University Ajman now has more than thousand students in its various programs. In the UK, it has invited MPs such as Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs Michael Ancram and former Miss World Yukta Mukhi to dish out degrees during a graduation ceremony in the recent past. It is operating the “Halifax University” enterprise in the UK as well. With more than 50 campuses worldwide, Preston “University” is fooling thousands of students by claiming that they are obtaining an “American” degree……..I don’t know how its owners can sleep at night. Don’t they ever consider that they are playing on the gullibility of these students? But one thing is for sure: They are making a heap of money. Regardless of what they might counterclaim, the quoted materials on this blog are self explanatory. Preston cannot claim that the information on this blog is false. May Allah guide them closer to the straight path and may they find the strength and courage to make their organisation a credible one. I welcome your comments on this “diploma mill” in the United Arab Emirates.