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MegaTrendy
June 14, 2014 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Two weeks ago, a group of Serbian expat academics in the UK posted a scathing and detailed critique of the Ph.D. dissertation of Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs, Nebojša Stefanović, alleging plagiarism and academic fraud. The authors claimed that the "procurement of dubious academic degrees ... is a serious problem in the Serbian system of higher education" and promised to "to continue to examine suspicious doctoral and masters dissertations belonging to other public figures in Serbia." The reaction has not been uneventful:

Megatrend University has a College of Basketball, a Cosmology Laboratory led by the Bogdanov Brothers (of the notorious Bogdanov affair) and once gave an honorary doctorate to Muammar Qaddafi.
posted by pjenks (56 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Megatrend"...?
posted by slater at 3:56 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


"Megatrend"? Really? Does this mean something in Serbian, or has someone been reading too many dystopian novels?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:57 PM on June 14


It's awful, but I am kind of jealous that people over there actually care.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:59 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


I'd be curious in seeing whether various American political figures have dissertations that hold up. Robert Paul Wolff read Newt Gingrich's dissertation a while back and posted his thoughts on it.
posted by painquale at 4:07 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]


First, Megatrend is the best university name on the planet, even if that doesn't counterbalance the plagiarism.

Didn't Germany just go through a period of discovering a bunch of fake degrees also?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:26 PM on June 14


I really want a megatrend uni tshirt now. Get on it internets!
posted by srboisvert at 4:30 PM on June 14


They're carrying on the tradition of excellence begun with their eponymous BIOS, I'm sure!
posted by feloniousmonk at 4:38 PM on June 14 [14 favorites]


srboisvert, what do you mean you want a tshirt? I want an ironic Megatrend University PhD now. Come on!
posted by kandinski at 4:42 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Megatrend U English page.

Don't miss: Animated marquee favicon
posted by BeerFilter at 4:43 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


They're carrying on the tradition of excellence begun with their eponymous BIOS, I'm sure!

Just like The University of Phoenix.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:49 PM on June 14 [31 favorites]


Megafilter
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:10 PM on June 14 [18 favorites]


I'd be curious in seeing whether various American political figures have dissertations that hold up.

Americans go the other way. George W. Bush was a solid C student and barely got an undergraduate degree. He was proud of it. It makes him an "everyman".
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:14 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


No-one agreed with me in the last thread on plagiarism... But I don't understand how this has become the holy sin of our times. lying? OK - just repeats talking points you don't understand, fed to you by an assistant? OK - supporting policies with devastating economic consequences? OK. - Torture/death penalty? OK or at best difficult moral issues which we can disagree on - Copying a few paragraphs a half a dozen people will ever read or care about? Cardinal sin.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:18 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


Americans go the other way. George W. Bush was a solid C student and barely got an undergraduate degree. He was proud of it. It makes him an "everyman".

You don't think that's a little misleading? The last presidential election was between a Harvard law professor and a man with two graduate degrees from the same.
posted by Winnemac at 5:20 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


The problem, Another Fine Product, is that dissertations and the like help you earn credentials, which can be used to give you the impression of speaking from authority. Then when you use that to help get power... Well, there's a sort of house of card effect there.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:30 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


This is all part of the corruption which is rather to the fore in Serbia.
posted by adamvasco at 5:34 PM on June 14


Serbia: We Care
posted by phaedon at 5:42 PM on June 14


But I don't understand how this has become the holy sin of our times.

I am not sure it's the cardinal sin of our times, but it is the cardinal sin of scholarship. Plagiarism and falsification are corrosive to scholarship. Scholars understand that their colleagues can be wrong or lack information or get superseded, and these things can be dealt with. But, if a colleague is lying about what they have done and learned, that is a breech of trust that cannot be addressed; it's a failure that says you are unfit to be a scholar of any sort, and the academy has no place for you.

I'm not sure if it's so significant in the world of journalism, fiction, or politics (although someone who has such an extreme ethical failing in one field is unlikely to respect the ethics of others), but in scholarship is it deadly.

I've always been a little puzzled ow avidly political figures seek debased degrees -- if you have a genuine interest in the field is one thing, but often it just seems like a weird line of a CV which would lead me to ask -- "if you cared enough to get a doctorate," why are you doing this?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:42 PM on June 14 [13 favorites]


"But I don't understand how this has become the holy sin of our times. lying? OK - just repeats talking points you don't understand, fed to you by an assistant? OK - supporting policies with devastating economic consequences? OK. - Torture/death penalty? OK or at best difficult moral issues which we can disagree on - Copying a few paragraphs a half a dozen people will ever read or care about? Cardinal sin."

I think that the wealthy people that use "Copying a few paragraphs" to get into a position to; "Lie, advocate supporting policies with devastating economic consequences, and [use that to] administer torture/death penalty" is the objection.

Some kid stealing an English paper from the web is neither a holy nor Cardinal sin.
posted by vapidave at 5:47 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


The last presidential election was between a Harvard law professor and a man with two graduate degrees from the same.

I don't remember that being a serious part of the public debate. I do remember people worrying about which would be worse; re-electing a black man or electing a Mormon.

Other countries still value an advanced degree as a sign of competence - which is why falsifying that credential is a scandal. I think Americans don't have the same high opinion of higher education anymore.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:47 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of hoping that Megatrend university has the ability to transform into a giant robot.
posted by happyroach at 5:50 PM on June 14 [13 favorites]


Copying a few paragraphs a half a dozen people will ever read or care about? Cardinal sin.

It is a horrible sin. You do all the work -- toiling with research, experiments, interviews, what have you, and someone else steals it, gets credit for being intelligent, and get the high-paying positions even though he does not have the same knowledge and understanding as the guy who actually bothered with the work, usually meaning the one in charge has no idea what he is doing and doesn't have a deep understanding -- he can play the part as he schmoozes and dazzles while he knows where to steal, but the ramifications are dreadful -- because once he does get caught, everyone affiliated with that institution has their stock go way down and his decisions while will be questionable, but good luck trying to rid the place of his rot.

You lose face and people lose faith -- maybe the sky isn't falling, but the ground sure is eroding thanks to that short cut. Just as instant gratification has its problems, not suffering instant punishment also makes people think things are all right when they are not...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:05 PM on June 14 [10 favorites]


OK, how many of you are disappointed that "Megatrend University" isn't located in California?

in other issues...
Don't we have a Vice-President whose 1988 campaign for President was derailed by an admission of plagiarism?

Of course, in some circles, plagiarism is not a 'holy sin'. Right, Rand Paul?
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:10 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


Ooooh, I've been watching this unfold mostly through the snarky lens of the /r/serbia subreddit, but this is an excellent encapsulation, thank you pjenks.

The MegaTrend thing.... yeah... I have a cousin who is getting her degree in Marketing (I know) there, and the first time I heard the name, I cringed. It's just one of a rash of private, for-profit universities that have opened in Serbia in the past fifteen years, offering dubiously-accredited degrees to anyone who can scrape up the annual tuition (I believe it's €1500/year, which may not sound like much for a private university, but the average monthly take-home in Serbia is like, €450).

Anyway, the problem that the situation is indicative of, is quite sad. I remember a few summers ago I was reading one of Serbia's main weeklies and it reported that only 6% of the entire country had a bachelors degree or higher!

Of course, that's because of the people who emigrated during the war, most of them were people with higher education able to get the necessary visas in Austria, Canada, Australia, the US, and so on. But it explains a lot about the leadership, and the populace supporting them.
posted by Aubergine at 6:19 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]


Megatrend U English page.

It is clear to me that an English degree from Megatrend University is ideal preparation for writing tourist signs in SE Asia and product descriptions on Chinese knockoff.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:20 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


a man with two graduate degrees from the same
Which he felt obliged to indirectly disparage once an actual presidential candidate.
posted by yz at 6:24 PM on June 14


Some kid stealing an English paper from the web is neither a holy nor Cardinal sin.

In as far as that kid is in a scholastic institution, yeah it is. Otherwise, what's the plan? Forgive and forgive until you decide they're "old enough" and fire them? You're just training plagarists.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:32 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]


I'm totally adding Megatrend University to my fake resume.
posted by drezdn at 7:20 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]


"University of London"

It sounds a lot like the Megatrends U rector doesn't have the sort-of LSE PhD he claims, but University of London is the awarding institute for most of the internationally accepted higher education institutes in London, including the LSE. I mean, if you're not calling it an LSE PhD, it probably isn't, but the binding the PhD's in may well say University of London.
posted by ambrosen at 7:27 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


One of the points brought up was that there was no way the guy could have gotten a PhD two years after finishing a Masters.

This is what my ex-boyfriend is doing right now, in a major university in Australia. In IT. And he's not exactly unique. He was doing a 2 year Masters, then he had the option to extend it to another two years for his PhD so that's what he's doing.

Is this not common?
posted by divabat at 7:28 PM on June 14


In Commonwealth countries there are different standards from the US. Even the weakest UK/AUS PhD still takes more work than this guy actually did, though. (More specifically, many US PhDs INCLUDE a Masters as part of the process.)
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:35 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Aubergine: Anyway, the problem that the situation is indicative of, is quite sad. I remember a few summers ago I was reading one of Serbia's main weeklies and it reported that only 6% of the entire country had a bachelors degree or higher!

My understanding of this is that the real Universities in Serbia have extremely difficult programs with some students working for a decade without getting a Bachelors. They make most US universities --- where not much more than attending for 4 years gets you a diploma --- look like diploma mills.

Also. More investigation of Megatrend... this time of their extensive international network of imaginary institutes: Megatrend's Potemkin Universities (Google Translated dw.de).
posted by pjenks at 8:24 PM on June 14


Megatrend University has a College of Basketball, a Cosmology Laboratory led by the Bogdanov Brothers (of the notorious Bogdanov affair) and once gave an honorary doctorate to Muammar Qaddafi.

Screw this. When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:52 PM on June 14


Proud alumnus of Wossamotta U.
posted by SPrintF at 9:55 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the intellectual elite, I just flipped past C-SPAN in time to see Rick Santorum say to the Iowa State Republican Convention, I understand why candidates and all of you want to just go out and bang the President... it's fun! I mean it's fun!
posted by XMLicious at 9:57 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


MEGATREND UNIVERSITY
KNOWLEDGE. SINCE 1989

...hm
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:57 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Once I announced "I have an honorary degree from Clown College!" Everybody laughed. I said, "No really. I'm not joking."

Clown College heard about it and took away my degree because I wasn't joking.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:09 PM on June 14 [31 favorites]


“tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton,”

"Then I told 'em I had an elephant-repelling rock. 'Have you seen any elephants around here? Of course you haven't.' That showed 'em."
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:24 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


Jovanovic does seem to have some evidence already, assuming the photo here is authentic -- it's LSE after all.

I've always been a little puzzled ow avidly political figures seek debased degrees -- if you have a genuine interest in the field is one thing, but often it just seems like a weird line of a CV which would lead me to ask -- "if you cared enough to get a doctorate," why are you doing this?

If my own decision to steer away from actual politics allows any insight, I suspect it's impostor syndrome -- deep down they know they're phonies.
posted by dhartung at 10:54 PM on June 14


Ironically, imposter syndrome is what drives most of us academics to get real Ph Ds.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


OK, how many of you are disappointed that "Megatrend University" isn't located in California?

Pfff. We go to Ex'Pression College in California, not Megatrend University.
posted by mississippi at 11:49 PM on June 14


Jovanovic does seem to have some evidence already, assuming the photo here is authentic -- it's LSE after all.

The problems with considering that as proof are outlined in one of the linked articles.

TL;DR: That appears to be a piece of letterhead inserted into a hardcover book of unknown provenance. It proves nothing exonerating, and if anything confirms some of the accusations.
posted by tkfu at 12:25 AM on June 15


Megatrend U English page.

It is clear to me that an English degree from Megatrend University is ideal preparation for writing tourist signs in SE Asia and product descriptions on Chinese knockoff.


Not to mention the advertising copy for Compare the Meerkat advertisements.
posted by rongorongo at 1:04 AM on June 15


One more thing about plagiarism and imposters... (from a usually undistinguished newspaper comic)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:03 AM on June 15


Megatrend University has been considered the leader in higher education for more than two decades now as far as Southeast Europe region is concerned. Over the period of past few years we have witnessed an extreme progress in overcoming barriers of spatial and cultural distances, as well as diversely facilitated access to information and its exchange. These changes are known by the name of globalization. The third and current phase of development at Megatrend, preceded by phases of gathering most excellent teaching staff and providing cutting-edge infrastructure, is the process of internationalization of Megatrend University operations globally. This phase is at the same time the last development phase of the University - because it proposes constant development and continuous evolution.
posted by crayz at 3:17 AM on June 15


Go Fighting Hashtags!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:48 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


As someone who spent six years and $50k getting a mid-level U.S. Ph.D in order to land a $56k/year teaching job, I hope everyone who fakes a degree does hard time.
posted by mecran01 at 4:19 AM on June 15 [12 favorites]


It's unfortunate that this will probably be forgotten in a few weeks, like all education scandals in Serbia so far. Megatrend is a state-accredited diploma mill. Everything about it is a joke. People who graduated there couldn't be employed in state administration, until recently, when SPS (Socialist Party of Serbia - Slobodan Milošević's party) came back to power. Mića Jovanović, the (now former) rector of Megatrend, has been in SPS since it was founded. As someone mentioned in this thread, he's just one peace of the puzzle in the story of corruption in Serbia.

People here should know that private universities are looked down upon in Serbia, since basically all of them are just diploma mills. Megatrend is one of those private "universities" that give out degrees to celebrities and politicians and then use them as advertisement of how good and respected the university is. Now that a great number of politicians in power have their diplomas, I doubt anything substantial will happen to Megatrend and its owner / former rector.
posted by _Seeker_ at 5:20 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


[Dave Brat derail deleted; there's an open thread elsewhere for those who want to talk about him.]
posted by taz at 6:05 AM on June 15


In a weird way, I can't help chuckling at this. My PhD was awarded by the University Of London; I didn't go to my graduation ceremony and, when I phoned a couple of months later to ask why they hadn't posted my degree certificate, the postgrad office claimed to have no record of my ever being there.

Obviously it got sorted out after a short but memorable period of near-panic, and I'm not saying that my situation makes any difference to the plausibility of this one. Still, though... heh.

(For context, The University of London is a federation including some of London's oldest and best universities. The LSE and UCL are probably the most famous internationally, but there are many more. UoL does not do any teaching itself, but it does act as the degree awarding institution for some of the departments and colleges.)
posted by metaBugs at 7:30 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Once I announced "I have an honorary degree from Clown College!" Everybody laughed. I said, "No really. I'm not joking."

Clown College heard about it and took away my degree because I wasn't joking.


I wanted to get a degree from a clown college, even some sort of degree mill one, just for shits and giggles.

No, the only places I found were serious(ly frivolous?) Clown Colleges like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus The Greatest Show on Earth, with actual required programs and work and effort and stuff.

So I guess clown colleges are more legit than MegaTrend.
posted by Evilspork at 9:01 AM on June 15 [4 favorites]


Good fallback school if you can't get in to Miskatonic
posted by thelonius at 10:47 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


> I wanted to get a degree from a clown college, even some sort of degree mill one, just for shits and giggles.

They stopped offering degrees in shits and giggles, so you'll have to choose a different major.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:56 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Good of them to Slav away and expose his shortcomings
posted by Renoroc at 2:39 PM on June 15


People here should know that private universities are looked down upon in Serbia, since basically all of them are just diploma mills.

So...same as in the US.
posted by kjs3 at 5:25 PM on June 16


Good of them to Slav away and expose his shortcomings

The words "slave" and "Slav" are etymologically related; "slave" was originally a racial slur. I don't think it's a good idea to make this play on words: even if the connection has been somewhat obscured by history, I presume that many Slavs are aware of it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:51 PM on June 16


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