Does Zahidi Really Hold an MBA?

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Questions abound over deputy minister’s academic credentials from unknown US varsity.

Yusof Mat Isa

Like several of his Barisan Nasional (BN) political colleagues, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin is now the latest to come under the spotlight, over a purportedly dubious academic qualification.

While the dust has yet to settle after his recent remarks to the Senate last week — that Sabahan student Veveonah Mosibin was “just a YouTuber wanting to make a name for herself” and had faked sitting for an online university examination atop a tree in Pitas, Sabah in June — Zahidi now faces renewed social media scrutiny over his own academic competence.

Details about his academic qualifications were published by national news agency, Bernama, in a report stating that Zahidi holds a diploma in public administration from Mara Technological Institute (now Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara, UiTM) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from a lesser-known US-based university, Global University, USA, purportedly based in Northern California.

The report from March this year, after Zahidi was made deputy minister, caught the attention of social media users recently, following intense backlash over his comments on Veveonah, which even led Senator Alan Ling Sie Kiong to call on the Dewan Negara to act against Zahidi, for misleading the upper house of Parliament.

Malay Mail carried out some checks to verify the existence of the university mentioned in the Bernama report, and found that Global University is an institution rooted in Christian theological fields of study, which offers certificates in pastoral counselling, ministerial studies and ministerial studies with leadership honours.

The university, based on the contents of its website, also does not offer any MBA programmes, except those linked to Christianity studies, such as Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry.

On its website, Global University claims to be “a fully accredited non-profit Christian University, in the Pentecostal tradition, based out of Springfield, Missouri as well as a “distance learning pioneer”.

Malay Mail also emailed the university in question, but the email query bounced back with a notification from the remote server reading: 550 permanent failure for one or more recipients (info@globaluniversity.edu:blocked).

Malay Mail then expanded the search scope to another equally less well-known university called the Northern California Global University (NCGU), seeing how the description was almost similar to the one posted by Bernama.

However, checks found that no website existed, unlike in the case of Global University.

In fact, in 2005, Indonesian media agency, Liputan6.com, reported that authorities in the republic had banned NCGU for offering fake academic certifications, including MBAs, via its Indonesian affiliate, Institut Manejeman Global Indonesia (IMGI). The report said that IMGI had issued 9,723 fake Masters degrees between 1997 and 2004.

Malay Mail also contacted Zahidi and a close aide of his for comment, but as of the time of writing, a response from the former had yet to be received.

His aide, however, responded late last night, saying that Zahidi did not use any “deputy minister profile depicting him as a Masters degree holder from any foreign universities”.

“In Datuk Zahidi’s profile which was distributed to the media in April, his highest academic accreditation depicted is a diploma in public administration from the Mara Technological Institute (ITM),” the aide told Malay Mail.

In 2013, DAP’s Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming had claimed that Serian MP and now ex-human resources minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem and ex-Ranau MP Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin had received degrees from universities identified as degree mills.

He also accused the former group president and chief executive officer of Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGVH) Bhd, Datuk Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah, as having questionable qualifications.

Ong also claimed that Baling MP Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, who was appointed as chairman of Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) then, as another whose qualifications were questionable.

In October, then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, told the Dewan Rakyat that there are no laws to penalise those with fake degrees, including ministers.

In reply to a question by Ong, Shahidan said Parliament must draft new laws for the authorities to take action against those with dubious qualifications but noted that any civil servant found to have faked his qualifications will be sacked immediately. – MMO