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Malaysia: Fake PhD controversy prompts ministry to set up official registry

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Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education has announced plans to set up a National Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Registry following a high-profile case involving a popular motivational speaker who falsely claimed to hold several academic degrees.

The ministry said the move would deter those who hope to profit from issuing or using bogus academic certificates, as the public would be able to check the registry and verify claims.

“The ministry is serious in taking action against the production and usage of fraudulent academic titles by individuals and organisations. The most common fraudulently used and produced academic title in Malaysia is ‘Dr.’ as in a PhD graduate.

“The ministry, through the University and University Colleges Act 1971 (Act 30), Private Higher Educational Institutions Act (Act 555) and existing guidelines on the use of academic titles, will establish a registry under the Department of Higher Education for all PhD holders in the country.

“The registry will automatically register those who graduate with a PhD locally,” it said in a statement earlier this week.

As for those who obtained their PhD degree overseas, the ministry said verification can be sought from their respective universities.

It added that the registry would “facilitate and complement existing laws in addition to the legal safeguards provided under the Penal Code which allows for criminal action to be taken against the production and usage of fraudulent academic titles”.

The setting up of the registry comes on the heels of a national controversy that questioned the academic credentials of Azizan Osman, a well-known motivational speaker who claimed to have been awarded doctorate degrees from several universities, including local top institution the University of Malaya and the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

The universities have since issued statements refuting Azizan’s claims, who then said he was “targeted and misled” by several individuals into believing that the universities wished to award him the degrees.

The ministry said the University of Malaya has filed a police report over the issue, while other universities are also considering taking legal action against Azizan.

Last month, Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh said that cases such as Azizan’s were not new.

“It’s a common problem, and there have been warnings issued in the past,” he said, as reported by The Star.

However, he added that there were no clear policies in place to prevent such abuse, and that the ministry would release clearer guidelines in the next few months.

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