Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Universities condemn plagiarism. So it's kind of news when your Dean of Medicine does it at grad.
June 12, 2011 9:31 PM   Subscribe

University of Alberta Dean of Medicine Philip Baker is so inspired that he plagiarizes graduation speech from one last year at Stanford. He claims only parts were not cited properly as inspiration while grads at the ceremony claim it was an outright lift. The tip-off? "Velluvial matrix." The U of A Guide to Plagiarism here for reference.
posted by reiichiroh (64 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
The omnipresence of smartphones was his undoing as students, Googled "velluvial matrix" and found that the rest of the speech resembled Dr. Atul Gawande's speech also published in the New Yorker.

Should there be consequences?
posted by reiichiroh at 9:35 PM on June 12, 2011


I also apologize in advance since this is my first, er, post and am not sure if I am doing this right.

30.3.2 Inappropriate Academic Behaviour
posted by reiichiroh at 9:38 PM on June 12, 2011


My daughter's first comment: "How could he possibly think he wouldn't be caught?"
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:58 PM on June 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Whoa! That's so very not cool.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:59 PM on June 12, 2011


And yes, there should be consequences.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:59 PM on June 12, 2011


In the last decade, schools and universities now have a policy of forcing students to submit their papers to third-party online fraud-checkers such as turnitin.com in order to combat students who plagiarism through various methods, online and offline.

I believe this has been covered before on mefi in the last few years with questions of turnitin taking ownership of the work submitted to their database causing much controversy.
posted by reiichiroh at 10:05 PM on June 12, 2011


Yes, there will be consequences.
Consequences which will never be the same.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:12 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by bardic at 10:14 PM on June 12, 2011


U of A has some of the highest standards in the country. In the top five, for sure. And their medical program, well, uh, it's kind of a big deal.

I'd expect some consequences, yeah.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:20 PM on June 12, 2011


Between this and the Amina thing, I've realized something.

Everyone is lying about everything.

(I'm not really made from dirigibles)
posted by dirigibleman at 10:24 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Someone, somewhere, is now going through this guy's body of work with a careful eye. He better be praying this was his only screwup.
posted by sbutler at 10:35 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


dirigibleman: "Between this and the Amina thing, I've realized something.

Everyone is lying about everything.
"

"Everybody lies."

~Dr. Gregory House
posted by bwg at 10:37 PM on June 12, 2011


This shouldn't be even the tiniest bit surprising. I don't go to a lot of graduation ceremonies, but I can't remember going to one that didn't include at least one speech that was either obviously Mad Libbed from a generic form in a public-speaking textbook or cribbed in its entirety from some internet source or another. One of the speakers at my college graduation basically read us the same "Children of the 80s" essay that's been forwarded ad nauseam since the days of AOL. My sister's high school graduation ceremony included — not by design, but by sheer coincidence — THREE speeches based on Dr. Seuss's "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" Graduation speakers are not necessarily chosen for the originality of their ideas, but for their ability to deliver comforting-if-not-inspiring rhetoric.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:55 PM on June 12, 2011


Everyone is lying about everything.

(I'm not really made from dirigibles)
posted by dirigibleman at 10:24 PM on June 12 [+] [!]

Wait, so does that mean you ARE made from dirigibles? Is this some elaborate double bluff? This is complicated.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:56 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amy Christianson, a PhD graduate of the university, also attended the graduation banquet and said the speech was much more than just inspiration.
“It was a blatant word for word copy,” she said.
She said that he changed some U.S. references but that the majority of it was identical.
“I read the speech ... it’s not just a bunch of disgruntled students,” she said. “I just graduated with my PhD and if I did something like that, I would be expelled.”

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:59 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the first draft of his speech was about the importance of wearing sunscreen.
posted by mhum at 11:22 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


He's been backtraced!
posted by Catblack at 11:34 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If one of the students in the audience had tried to pull something like this they would have been out on their asses with a mark on their name so big they'd never work and have a hard time studying in academia ever again.

Why should he expect any different?
posted by Blasdelb at 11:52 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of the students fail to distinguish between scientific work (which is supposed to be original) and graduation speeches (which are just supposed to make you feel good).

It's just a ritual, you know. No need to turn it into a Ph.D. thesis every time.
posted by sour cream at 12:21 AM on June 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of the teachers fail to distinguish between scientific work (which is supposed to be original) and the 12th billion essay on Madame Bovary (which are just supposed to make sure you read the damn thing).
posted by sbutler at 12:28 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched my friends graduate from my university in 2003. The following year, I graduated, and something seemed a bit odd about the President's speech. Then he said "late-night bull session", and I realized he'd just used the same one as the previous year. What little respect I had for him before that lessened even further.
posted by knile at 1:11 AM on June 13, 2011


Ignorance of how the Internet works once again proves catastrophically embarrassing.
posted by flotson at 1:48 AM on June 13, 2011


You have to be pretty catastrophically stupid to think that nobody's going to recognize a speech by Atul Gawande, who for better or worse is a thought leader in medicine these days.
posted by killdevil at 1:55 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of the teachers fail to distinguish between scientific work (which is supposed to be original) and the 12th billion essay on Madame Bovary (which are just supposed to make sure you read the damn thing).

Hold on a sec - at the level of essays about Madame Bovary, a lot of academic scientific work is just about having done the work - making sure people did the experiment, noted the results and so on. That's undergraduate-level work. Nobody's expecting you to discover a new element.

In fact, Baker might have fallen into a variation of this apprehension - assuming that because it wasn't patentable science, the speech was just "out there" - like the Cooks Source incident. It's a shame, because a simple "I was inspired by a story told by my esteemed colleague Dr Atul Gawande" would have sorted this out, at the cost of having shown that the speech was a last-minute crib - one of those quotation-heavy essays you write the night before it has to be handed in.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:07 AM on June 13, 2011


I doubt a dean of anything thought cutting and pasting an entire speech was acceptable. That's why, like many plagiarists, he switched a few words in the belief that this would make it untraceable. For sheer stupidity alone the guy should lose his position. What makes this particularly egregrious, though, is that he didn't have to do any research. He could just have said anything along the lines of 'well done, here's why medicine is important' and he'd have been okay. But he couldn't be bothered. That's far more contemptible than the theft (almost).
posted by lesbiassparrow at 5:03 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Between this and the Amina thing, I've realized something.

Everyone is lying about everything.

(I'm not really made from dirigibles)
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:06 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really am made of meat, honest. If there's anyone you can still trust in this world, it is Meatbomb.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:11 AM on June 13, 2011


It's probably lupus.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doctor, spiel thyself.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:49 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not really a red-tailed hawk.

I think a lot of the students fail to distinguish between scientific work (which is supposed to be original) and graduation speeches (which are just supposed to make you feel good).

Maybe my irony meter hasn't had enough coffee yet this morning, but - what?
posted by rtha at 5:55 AM on June 13, 2011


Reminds me of the speeches for the election of class president at my high school. One of the candidates chose to delivery Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech substituting such items as for "sitting down at the table of brotherhood" and "this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal" and "a parking space for everyone in the high school lot" and "freedom of lunch choices."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:08 AM on June 13, 2011


Everyone lies, nobody minds
Everyone lies

Where is the man you respect ?
And where is the woman you love ?

~smallvictories.
posted by smallvictories at 6:39 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"My sister's high school graduation ceremony included — not by design, but by sheer coincidence — THREE speeches based on Dr. Seuss's "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" Graduation speakers are not necessarily chosen for the originality of their ideas, but for their ability to deliver comforting-if-not-inspiring rhetoric."

Ha, that's what my generic graduation speech is based on. But I bring the actual book and show the pictures and acknowledge the author. :)

And I'm chosen neither for the originality of my ideas, nor for my ability to deliver speeches, but because I'm on the school board and a school board member has to go to every high school graduation to, like, officialize it. And we always have to speak. And writing graduation speeches is REALLY HARD. (And we have like 8 HS program graduations per year. Every year. Even if you're clever once, you can't possibly keep up that level of clever output.)

I think I might have just about worn this speech out, though. I may have to come up with a new generic graduation speech starting next year. If anyone has any brilliant ideas about how to deliver a good one when you're not famous (so that you can just ramble on about your own life and people are interested), I am ALL EARS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:52 AM on June 13, 2011


I can picture how this happened. The Dean is probably far too busy with important stuff like giving speeches to spare some time for more mundane tasks such as writing them, and asked some low-ranking underling to write this one for him.

Said low-ranking underling was in turn much too busy with actual work to spare some time for writing speeches for the frigging Dean, so he googled it, and found a nice one on the internets.

Hmm, if the university is looking for a new Dean of Medicine, this other guy is looking for work as far from Germany as possible. No actual medical qualifications (and his PhD was nuked), but he can demonstrably cut 'n paste with the best of them.
posted by Skeptic at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2011


Maybe my irony meter hasn't had enough coffee yet this morning, but - what?

A graduation speech is not actual scholarly product, where originality and proper citation are key. Nor is it a part of course assessment, where it would represent mastery of some concepts or material and so it is critical that the work presented be the presenter's own work.

Instead, a graduation speech is closer to finding that a lecture in one of your courses is almost identical to lecture notes posted online for a similar course halfway across the country. To which the answer is: yes, and?

The problem is that a graduation speech is public enough that... what's that thing called in (some) Jewish communities where an act is not actually forbidden, but *appears* sufficiently forbidden that an observer might become confused about what is forbidden and what is not? So you should not do this actually-permissible thing because it might lead to someone else doing something forbidden?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 AM on June 13, 2011


I think a lot of the students fail to distinguish between scientific work (which is supposed to be original) and graduation speeches (which are just supposed to make you feel good).

Exactly this. The first thing I was going to say when I came in here was "Was he being graded on his graduation speech? Was a requirement for him giving the speech that it be an original work?"
posted by antifuse at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2011


Ma'arit Ha'ayin.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2011


what's that thing called in (some) Jewish communities where an act is not actually forbidden, but *appears* sufficiently forbidden that an observer might become confused about what is forbidden and what is not? So you should not do this actually-permissible thing because it might lead to someone else doing something forbidden?

It's called "being neurotic".
posted by benito.strauss at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not thinking that a graduation speech has to have formal footnotes and a full bibliography, but is it so hard to say "As [person who wrote thing] observed, [blah blah blah],"? And if you're going to lift someone else's autobiographical stories and pretend they're yours - well, don't. That's just stupid.
posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the first draft of his speech was about the importance of wearing sunscreen.

That was our graduation speech! I think the song became popular that summer or the next. It was pretty funny.
posted by ODiV at 8:13 AM on June 13, 2011


And I'm chosen neither for the originality of my ideas, nor for my ability to deliver speeches, but because I'm on the school board and a school board member has to go to every high school graduation to, like, officialize it. And we always have to speak. ... If anyone has any brilliant ideas about how to deliver a good one when you're not famous (so that you can just ramble on about your own life and people are interested), I am ALL EARS.

If you're just there to make it official, you don't need to commemorate the occasion with a speech. Introduce yourself. Briefly congratulate everyone. If you must say a few words, and only if you must, say a few words about the community supporting the students by electing a school board, paying teachers, etc. because they believe education is worthwhile, then congratulate everyone again. Introduce the next speaker. With any luck, it will be the speaker the students invited or elected to to commemorate the occasion with a speech. Stand back and let them work.

Less is more in these cases.
posted by Marty Marx at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2011


Sadly, the community convention here is that the speaker the students invited IS the school board member. We're expected to give an actual graduation speech. There is no other speaker. And there is community grumbling if you attempt just the "yay, congrats, we love you" version. You're supposed to SAY something.

I certainly would have copped out long ago if that were possible. I didn't like listening to graduation speakers myself, and I don't flatter myself by imagining anybody else does either just because now I'm the one speaking.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:28 AM on June 13, 2011


When I graduated I gave the graduation speech at my small college back in the day. It was a December graduation so pretty sparsely attended. The next spring I was still around the area and as a lot of my friends where graduating I attended... damn if the college president didn't steal parts of my previous speech both in words and particular style. 16 years later I am pretty blase about it.
posted by edgeways at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2011


Ahem, just to be clear, I did not personally write the words below. I copied and pasted them. They are credited to Billy Joel. But they would make a nice speech from a graduating student to a certain Dean of Medicine.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

posted by binturong at 8:48 AM on June 13, 2011


@Eyebrows McGee, I would agree with Marty Marx and say that "less is more" (See how I did that Dean Baker)? Keep it as short as reasonably possible.

Keep it sincere. If you don't know the students, don't try to speak as if you knew them. Introduce them to your reality. What you do. What your role is on the school board. How there are 8 graduations per year. Every year.

And then tie that into how many people are graduating this year. And how this group of young adults are part of that mass of life, energy and potential, entering the world, with new ideas, hopes and dreams.

Tell them that they are not numbers. That they are not faceless clones moving into the next cog of the academic or professional machine. Instead, they are a powerful wave of the future that the older generation must stand up and acknowledge. They are the future leaders charging forward initiating and inspiring change.

They are the best generation. Old enough to make adult decisions. Old enough to have an impact on society. Young enough to remember what's truly important in life (peace, joy, harmony). They haven't picked up the horrible habits and traits that the older folks have, like bitterness, and anger, and hopelessness.

They are being born again. They have a new opportunity to define their lives anew. To define who they are as a person.

And its OK if they don't have things figured out. There's no rush, even if their friends have their lives all figured out. Becuase this is 2011. And in 2011, they can make all the mistakes they want and start over again. Any time. They can be 45 and decide that they want to go back to school. And they can. They have the power. And that power is in their hands as of right now.

And stuff like that.
To make it more personal, then you can talk about things that happened in the current year. Things happen each year that these young adults know about - in 2011, we had the disasters all over the globe, the shooting of the congressperson, the politics, etc., etc.
Find out about big events that happened in the school and talk about them.

It doesn't all have to be individualized. You can have some cookie cutter material. But a little bit of personalization can go a long way.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2011


I think a lot of the students fail to distinguish between scientific work (which is supposed to be original) and graduation speeches (which are just supposed to make you feel good).

This pretty much sums it up. The guy's punishment is being embarrassed in front of his students, being embarrassed in front of his peers (both in academia and in the administration), and being embarrassed in front of respected folks such as Atul Gawande. It's also humiliating to have your entire body of work questioned and perhaps investigated for fraud.

It was a commencement address, not an academic paper.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can picture how this happened. The Dean is probably far too busy with important stuff like giving speeches to spare some time for more mundane tasks such as writing them, and asked some low-ranking underling to write this one for him.

Normally there is a communications department that handles speechwriting. Having worked as a speechwriter, I can tell you that us lackeys take it pretty seriously. Probably what happened was the Dean chose not to get help with the speech (or maybe he was unable to get help, as communications staff are often short-handed) and just did it himself.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:40 AM on June 13, 2011


I don't care if it's just a stupid graduation speech that's supposed to be nothing but boring platitudes and he's had to give one fifty thousand times by now: you don't obviously steal something that people are going to identify as having been stolen (five minutes after the speech was over when everyone hit Google). Why? Because you work for a freaking university, you are a big shot at that university, and it is a big effing deal if you are caught plagiarizing. It makes you look like a giant idiot and a hypocrite. I hope his work does get reviewed for plagiarism, and I hope he at least gets reprimanded for his idiocy. I don't know if I'd go so far as a firing if it wasn't an academic paper, but he just made himself and the school look really bad, and there should be a consequence for that.

Don't be stupid, folks.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:18 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably what happened was the Dean chose not to get help with the speech (or maybe he was unable to get help, as communications staff are often short-handed) and just did it himself.

Except that...well...he actually didn't.
posted by Skeptic at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2011


Because you work for a freaking university, you are a big shot at that university, and it is a big effing deal if you are caught plagiarizing. It makes you look like a giant idiot and a hypocrite

Idiot? Ok. Hypocrite? I'm not sure the school has any policies about plagiarism in public addresses, so I'm not sure that there's any real hypocrisy here. Laziness, sure. Now, if it comes out that he actually plagiarized in his academic work as well, that's a whole different kettle of fish, and a really silly way for him to get caught.
posted by antifuse at 11:22 AM on June 13, 2011


On the plus side, he really provided a memorable graduation speech.
posted by mazola at 11:30 AM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was a commencement address, not an academic paper.

Jesus Christ. He didn't lift some sentences from one of MLK's speeches and not attribute them. He told stories about his life that weren't actually about his life at all - they were lifted almost word-for-word from someone else's work and life. Someone else who, one might expect, would be familiar to med students, what with the original author being kind of a famous doctor and writer.
posted by rtha at 12:08 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


He told stories about his life that weren't actually about his life at all - they were lifted almost word-for-word from someone else's work and life.

... and?

Honestly, I just don't see what all the uproar is about here. Are these graduated med students, actual adult people, going to suddenly value their medical degrees less because the inspirational speech from their graduation was written/experienced by some *other* doctor?
posted by antifuse at 12:35 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


He told stories from his life that weren't actually from his life. It's not just a quote here, a quote there.

Just so people are completely aware, it was a 15 min speech copied word for word..verbatim, even the pauses..except he left out the things about US medical health system and I change from personal health issue of the authors to his.

Whats worse is that his response to the speech (can see on the Edmonton journal's website) he says the speech was inspired and sadly he is still trying to defend himself.

Sad!


Sincerely,
An attendee at the banquet

posted by reiichiroh at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2011


Honestly, I just don't see what all the uproar is about here.

Honestly, after umpteen years of education, much of it with a heavy emphasis on doing your own fucking work, I'd be pretty irritated that the dean couldn't be arsed to at least pretend to respect the system he enforces. It wouldn't end my life or career or anything, and I'd be perfectly capable of feeling pissed off about this as well as other, bigger crises, but I can't see how it's surprising that people get mad when they feel disrespected.
posted by rtha at 1:46 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


A grad speech is different than an academic paper.

It is work with a different set of values from the ones that medicine traditionally has had: values of teamwork instead of individual autonomy, ambition for the right process rather than the right technology, and, perhaps above all, humility—for we need the humility to recognize that, under conditions of complexity, no speech will be infallible. No individual will be, either. There is always a velluvial matrix to know about.
posted by mazola at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2011


Honestly, I just don't see what all the uproar is about here.

Because he lied? He stood up there at one of the major events in these students' lives and lied right to their faces. He passed off another person's experiences as his own because he couldn't be bothered even to scrawl down a few platitudes.

Instead, a graduation speech is closer to finding that a lecture in one of your courses is almost identical to lecture notes posted online for a similar course halfway across the country. To which the answer is: yes, and?

One class is only a small portion of a entire term or semester, but if a student found that I had an entirely identical class for a whole term - notes and all - to another and I had clearly ripped my course off from someone else, I think they'd be entitled to complain. And plagiarising a syllabus is plagiarism - and no one appreciates it either, though it isn't taken as seriously as other forms of plagiarism (see the recent AC Grayling kerfuffle over that new private university in the UK, for example).
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:13 PM on June 13, 2011


Not terribly proper, but hardly the sort of offense that should end a valued career.

He should be chastened, yes, but it's not like he's shopping around pictures of his dick or anything.

Rules against plagiarism are more about keeping students from defeating the education they're paying $$$BIG for by encouraging them to think for themselves. (Despite all the pressing needs of their college social-lives ... which have cut average weekly study hours down 50% in a couple of decades.)

Of course people in the real world "borrow" each other's ideas constantly (e.g. the first big-selling US ball-point pen, the Remington Rocket, "modeled" after Laszlo Biro's. And "Edison's" famous light-bulb. Etc. ad nauseum.) Why, could Wall-Street financiers have scored such HUGE bonuses in the past five years without the "inspiration" of Enron and wrist-slappings its "entrepreneurs" got??

I wonder if UofA's students will be happy if their googling skills and moral panic bring down a man's career. And whether all those students will steadfastly face each of the trivial assignments of their overlords without ever indulging in such repugnant evil?
posted by Twang at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2011


Of course people in the real world "borrow" each other's ideas constantly (e.g. the first big-selling US ball-point pen, the Remington Rocket, "modeled" after Laszlo Biro's. And "Edison's" famous light-bulb. Etc. ad nauseum.) Why, could Wall-Street financiers have scored such HUGE bonuses in the past five years without the "inspiration" of Enron and wrist-slappings its "entrepreneurs" got??

Oh, well, that makes it okay then. We can conveniently ignore that some of the financiers go to jail and lose their jobs for the shit they pull.

That said, I agree that this isn't something he should lose his job/career over.
posted by rtha at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2011


He stood up there at one of the major events in these students' lives and lied right to their faces.

He told a bunch of stories, that turned out to not be about him. Yes, he lied. Did he lie about anything significant? Not really. I don't even remember who spoke at my university graduation. Or if anybody did. Now, granted I wasn't graduating from a prestigious medical school, but it wasn't exactly a community college either. I imagine these medical grads will have a great anecdote to tell their colleagues in the states in years to come, and that's it. I don't see any reason why his previous work should be investigated, unless people want to go into his previous speeches to check for more plagiarism there. :)
posted by antifuse at 5:43 PM on June 13, 2011


lesbiasparrow: And plagiarising a syllabus is plagiarism - and no one appreciates it either, though it isn't taken as seriously as other forms of plagiarism (see the recent AC Grayling kerfuffle over that new private university in the UK, for example).

The thing about the New College of the Humanities is that at the end of the course you'll have a University of London international degree - the kind of distance-learned degree that Nelson Mandela took in prison. The NCH isn't a University, in the sense that it gives out its own degrees - it's effectively a crammer school staffed by celebrities. So, they have to teach the same syllabus - they have no control over the content of the exams.

(It's one of a number of odd things about the NCH.)

Seconding antifuse - unless the assumption is that if you'll steal a pen, you'll steal a kidney, it doesn't feel like cribbing a speech is a good reason to check academic papers for plagiarism. This is humiliating and embarrassing, but it's not academic malpractice, is it?
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:55 AM on June 14, 2011


So, they have to teach the same syllabus - they have no control over the content of the exams.

I don't quite think this is how it works even in the UK - though it's been years since I've been all that knowledgeable about UK systems - you can teach the same material without ripping off a syllabus wholesale. I'd imagine if you're worth your salt as a teacher you'd want to, because you'd have your own method of linking and introducing material. And it does beg the question of why you'd pay twice as much for the same lectures, especially as the University of London has a fair few high-profile academics too. But that's a separate question. :)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2011


And it does beg the question of why you'd pay twice as much for the same lectures, especially as the University of London has a fair few high-profile academics too.

As I just said, this isn't a degree at the University of London we're talking about. NCH is not an accredited university. It does not set exams, it does not set curricula. What it is offering is tuition at the end of which students will take the University of London International Degree. That is, the degree you get by correspondence, without attending any of the colleges of the University of London. People across the world have studied for this degree - and in many cases they have engaged local tutors to help them study the course. That's all the NCH is doing - it's offering people something that looks like a university education, but which is in fact a series of courses from an unaccredited body preparing people for the University of London International Degree examination process.

They will also provide four courses for all students. These are unrelated to the University of London degree, and will give you a Diploma from the New College of the Humanities - like those certificates you get for completing a PowerPoint course, essentially, but a PowerPoint course taught intermittently by AC Grayling.

So, the plagiarism is a bit of a red herring - they have been putting material from the University of London International Degree syllabus on their website, because that's what they're teaching you to pass.

Why would you pay twice as much essentially to emerge with a University of London degree? Well, it's a wild guess, but I suspect many of the people attending NCH will be children of very wealthy people, who didn't get into Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews or the more prestigious colleges of the University of London, which generally require a high level of academic achievement as a condition of entry (unless you are the heir to the throne, anyway).

The NCH is planning to operate the old Oxbridge system of requiring a minimum of two passes at A-level (that is, the equivalent of a high school diploma), although I imagine they will in practice be more selective then this - they only need 200 people, and there are plenty of rich young people not quite able to make it into the first tier of public universities. And, because they are unaccredited, they can probably wait to put together their applications roster until after Oxbridge entrance has been decided.

It will then provide an environment where your child will be able to meet other children of extremely wealthy people. When they graduate, they will be able to call themselves Firstname Surname, BA Hons (London), DNC (Diploma of the New College) - thus easily identifying them as both very wealthy and socially integrated with a number of other very wealthy people. So, it's a way to get rich kids deprived of the networking possibilities of the very highest level of the public universities a similar set of possibilities through the private sector.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:53 PM on June 14, 2011


U of A's dean of medicine resigns.
posted by mazola at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2011


« Older Groupon: you're the product....   |   90 years in the making, the 21... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments