You rarely walk into a venue hosting a cultural or political event in Kuwait which isn’t crowded with doctors. The word ‘doctors’ here means professors with PhD degree in various fields. You start to wonder about this huge number of professors in Kuwait. It is healthy, of course, and a sign of great developments in the country’s education system. But that is not the whole truth; the truth is, many of these certificates are purchased.
Many of these ‘professors’ travel to several countries, especially in the Far East, and obtain false certificates from universities there, including PhDs in Engineering, in Political Science, in Law, in Languages, and in several other fields.
One such case became a professor by purchasing his certificate from Hungary. He wanted to be recruited to work in Kuwait. The prospective employer asked him about his knowledge of languages – English, French, and Hungarian. He answered that he knows none of them. When the employer asked him how he earned his PhD, he answered, “Through a translator.
This man’s story is common in Kuwait. And this goes back to several reasons such as lack of oversight from the government and the responsible ministry, the Ministry of Higher Education.
Sometimes the Ministry of Education lose cases in court against certificate purchasers and has to compensate them” said Dr. Abdulaziz Taqi, a former member of the Ministry of Higher Education’s higher committee for certificate accreditation, who is also the current deputy chairman for Planning and Development in the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET).
He added that the committee has taken measures to combat this issue, presenting the records of exit from and entry to Kuwait of those applying to have their certificates accredited. If it appears that any of these individuals did not attend the whole course at the universities where they obtained their certificate, they won’t be accredited. He explained that the court has no recourse against those who sue the committee for not granting them accreditation for their certifications.
Al-Taqi explained that academic standards vary from one country to another, but the recognized universities are found on the higher education ministry’s website. This list is periodically updated according to the latest information received by the ministry, but if an applicant obtains a degree after enrolling one of the foreign universities that is or has previously been listed on the site, his or her subsequent qualification from that facility must subsequently be recognized by the education ministry, even if the list has been changed and the university at which he or she studied is no longer recognized.
Al-Taqi demanded that the government treat this issue more seriously by launching awareness campaigns in the media and giving a more prominent role to Kuwait University and the PAAET, pointing out that they are the experts in these issues.
Mohammad completed his Pharmaceutical studies in London, returning to Kuwait only to be given a hard time in starting his own pharmacy in order to earn the money the he needs as a Kuwaiti citizen to live properly, having spent all those years in further education studying conscientiously to earn his degree. In the same time he finds that many of his fellow Kuwaitis who purchased their certificates are working in this vital and sensitive field and earning good money, despite their qualifications being a result of money rather than study.
This field is concerned with human health, though some of the people working in it have purchased their certificates and know nothing about pharmacy!” he said.
Ali, a young employee with a business firm is pestered all the time for information by a colleague who seem to know nothing about the work he is paid to do, but yet carries the same Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Philippines. ” I am doing his work for him, he knows nothing, and yet we are paid the same!” Ali told the Kuwait Times.
So, what are the reasons for this phenomenon and how will it affect Kuwaiti society? Dr. Abdul Reda Aseeri, the Dean of Kuwait University’s Social Sciences Faculty, blamed it to a growing tendency in Kuwaiti society to underestimate the crucial importance of education. In addition to the fact that all university graduates can easily obtain a fourth-rate public sector job, so the scramble to obtain a degree in any way possible has sharply increased in recent times, with the goal being to get a prestigious job rather than bother with acquiring knowledge.
Dr. Aseeri asserted that Kuwaiti society pays attention to attaining high social status rather than productivity. He added that some of those PhD holders have ambitions to reach political office through achieving high social status, which is considered the prefect route to reach this goal.
He averred that many of the candidates in the last parliamentary elections and even in Co-op elections are PhD-holders, which he said was weird and unjustified, adding that they were only graduates by dint of having purchased these degrees.
This, he insisted, has led to a lowering of social values and the growth of an increasingly superficial consumerist society interested only in money and social status rather than culture and education. “The social values have been debased and the culture of cheating is widespread in Kuwait” he confirmed.
Over 6,000 Kuwaiti students set off to study in foreign universities, with many going to institutions in the Gulf region, particularly Bahrain, while others head for universities in the Far East and Eastern Europe.
To control the phenomenon of purchased degrees, the government recently took steps to cut those numbers and encourage more students to study in Kuwaiti universities. These measures included depriving Kuwaiti students who studied abroad on their own rather than through government scholarships of the right to work in public sector positions.