How A Bangkok College Helped Bring Down A British University

In Flying Sporran, General News, Uncategorised by Andrew Drummond8 Comments

December 19 2011
(This story has been re-submitted after a programme glitch)
Soi Thonglor in Bangkok is best known for its upmarket bars and restaurants and is a fitting place for such a noble institution as the Accademia Italiana, a place of learning for followers of fashion and design.

So it’s hard to believe how this institute helped bring down one of Britain’s largest universities – the University of Wales. Now when I say largest, I do not mean it has the largest campus.

No, some 70,000 of its students were not there at all but abroad in places like, yes, Accademia Italiana, which until recently offered degrees from this noble institution.
I am using the past tense because the University of Wales is not more, at least not in its former grandiose form.  It has been merged and now actually has to teach people.

Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews said last month: ‘The University of Wales requires a decent burial’. 

 Oh dear what a pretty pass to come to.

This came after the University of Wales said it would no longer validate courses overseas.

That came after police and UK Border Agency raids in Britain.

Those raids those came after a programme called ‘University Challenged’ by BBC Wales ‘Week In Week Out’.

What the programme revealed was that a Malaysian pop star Fazley Yakoob, who ran the Fazely International College (FIC) in Kuala Lumpur, was offering his students University of Wales degrees.

Fazley , with four hit albums under his belt, claimed to have degrees (a Masters and a Doctorate in Business Administration) from the European Business School in Cambridge.  This had been exposed as a sham by the BBC in 2008 so in stepped BBC Wales reporter Ciaran Jenkins to face him up.

Then the BBC checked out Accademia Italiana in Bangkok, a college for Bangkok’s fashionistas and maybe for the sons and daughters a Bangkok’s  tasteful elite.

Dr. Sumate Yammoon, Secretary General of the Commission of Higher Education said that the place was not registered as a place of higher learning and was thus operating illegally. He told the BBC that the college was being brought to court.

Now before I get sued I should point out that Accademia Italiana was NEVER brought to court. The case against them was dismissed while in the hands of the prosecutor.

But I can point out that, as I write, it is no longer offering students degrees from the University of Wales.  In fact it is not offering degrees at all but diplomas. Those students wishing a degree will have to spend their last year in Italy, which is not all bad.

The University of Wales was also offering degrees through a controversial bible college in the United States but severed its ties with the ‘Trinity College of the Bible’ in Newburgh, Indiana, and another bible college in Denmark with a rigid anti-homosexual policy before the ‘Week In Week Out’ broadcast.

‘Week in Week Out’,  which I have worked for before,  showed that the University of Wales did not really check out some of those institutions which were running its degree courses.  Again I have to point out that I am not saying Accademia Italiana was one of those.

In some cases apparently (again not Bangkok) students were able to buy qualifications and in Britain they were able to use those qualifications to evade Immigration laws and continue studying at a University without a campus.

Nevertheless Accademia Italia played an important part in the programme and as such was instrumental in the downfall of the University of Wales.

Most of the Welsh Universities had opted out of the University of Wales in 2004, thus it was left to earn cash by offering degrees around the world and thus earned about £7 million a year.

I should point out that the BBC has now amended its website to say that Accademia Italiana was not prosecuted and you should bear that in mind when viewing the programme.

Nevertheless, apart from a couple of pieces of ‘sync’ which were thrown in to add more weight to a general theme, an interesting piece of journalism…and a timely reminder, less we forget, that education has become big business.



  1. Sir Lance Rayong

    I was recently asked as to 'what University I had been to?, a rather flattering question but I decided to answer honestly, 'Durham'
    'What did you take there?' came the response;
    —'My rugby boots and playing kit'
    I cannot lie!
    As a footnote the young grads ran around like whippets very fit but no experience against us 'older boys' —Age and cunning conquers youth and innocence?

  2. Paul Booth

    Your are right to bring this up. Many young Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Chinese, Malaysians and Arabic illegal workers in UK are derived from these fake universities. All of which will push the British population up to 70 million in ten years. Thus making it the most populated country in Europe. And potentially the most dangerous.

  3. Geoff

    By any DEGREE the University of Wales GRADUATED with few HONOURS (geddit?) and it's hardly surprising it's become something of a DROP OUT. Hopefully, this will be a STUDY of how not to make the GRADE as a world CLASS academic INSTITUTION … er, enough puns – Ed. Can I get me one of those fine and dandy journalism diplomas like what I can at the gud ole University of Tennis E?

  4. jeff

    What a wag you are Geoff.Certainly seems you are a bit pun-ch drunk.Though I reckon a few more well aimed ones would knock some sense into you. Strange no mention of leeks of information to the BBC from the University of Wales.Or the statement How Mean is My Valley.It seems you are in a class of your own when it comes to taking the mickey.Though perhaps you need to be taught an extra lesson or two about what happens when you do.Sorry about that Andrew.Would be grateful if I am allowed this response without being censored.

  5. jeff

    Not the usual number of views on this one Andrew.Perhaps lacking all the Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll found in your previous reportage.Though when I visited my far more intelligent friends during their University days the aforementioned goodies were certainly available in copious amounts.I am always amused by the snob factor foreign parents attach to degrees from British Universities.Spending a small fortune to send their off spring to the U.K. to study.Therefore allowing anyone offering a money saving deal a ready market.Paul Booth made some very valid comments.I remember one newly arrived member of the waiting staff in my local Indian Restaurant in England rather foolishly in my opinion telling me excitedly how he had obtained a student visa to enter the country.He was shortly to start studying at Oxford University no less.I was suitably impressed until further conversation revealed that although near the hallowed halls his place of education appeared to be no more than his intended professor's front room.A further additional glance at the rather suspect glossy information booklet he had been sent made me think that gentleman doing the teaching was more likely a reject from the local comprehensive school rather than the Ex-Dean he claimed to be.I feared any degree he obtained would not be worth the paper it was printed on.Though it would probably be enough for the job in the New Delhi Call Center he was keen to work in post studies.With so many pinning their hopes for a glittering career based on qualifications expensively obtained. I think the BBC has done a good job on this one in giving the University of Wales the third degree.There's lovely for you Mr Taffy Jones.Interesting break from the norm Andrew.Thank you.

  6. newbie

    the individual colleges of course have not been smitten with the same criticisms and remain highly respected institutions. though i know of one aber graduate who seemed to have slipped through the net

  7. PaddyC

    I predicted that all these scams would happen when Noo Labour began to privatise education along with everything else but my critics complained that I'm just an old 'lefty'.

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