An increasing number of Zambians, including some politicians are taking the short cut of paying for academic achievements like doctorates and professorships and insisting they be addressed as such, Parliament heard yesterday.
Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo said honorary degrees were not recognised anywhere in the world as qualification, but were seen as an honour to somebody who had excelled in a particular area.
“In my opinion, these are just money-making ventures because they have observed that in Zambia there are people who love titles which they have not worked for,” Prof Luo said in a ministerial statement on honorary degrees and professorship.
Prof Luo said the ministry had even received reports of some individuals in the country receiving letters to pay and attend workshop and be awarded afterwards, but have rather opted to work and study for their doctorate.
Professor Luo said honorary degrees were not given because an individual had followed a particular programme of study with defined learning outcomes or set standards, but only due to an assessment of an outstanding achievement.
She said in the absence of clearly-defined achievements an honorary degree could not be designated as a qualification, merely as an honour and should appear as such on curriculum vitae.
She informed the House yesterday that Government was disappointed with such a growing trend of individuals even going to an extent of paying to be awarded.
She cited trending advertorial on Internet asking people to pay as much as US$1,500 for them to be awarded honorary degrees, and most recently letters were sent to some individuals to pay $5,000 and an invitation to attend a two-day workshop and be awarded the tiles.
She said given that Zambia Qualifications Framework was a portfolio of qualifications, honorary degrees did not qualify to be registered and accredited on the Framework.
In this regard, the minister said honorary degrees would not be recognised by the Zambia Qualifications Framework.Consequently, they would not be placed on any level of the Zambia Qualification Framework.
Prof Luo was hopeful that the statement would bring to an end what she described as an epidemic of honorary degrees and urged people to work hard and obtain degrees after hard work.
“To the politicians, let me tell you that there are many world leaders such as President (Barack) Obama who were conferred with many honorary doctorates but chose not to use such titles as they were only honorary. That is called integrity. The secret is to work hard, to remain focused and committed to your studies,” she said.
On professorship, Prof Luo said the title was not given, but earned and, most importantly, professors were respected worldwide and it was conferred when one met a set criterion for the rank.
In a follow-up question, UPND Kabompo Member of Parliament (MP) Ambrose Lufuma, who started by saying he was about to be awarded a honorary degree, triggered laughter in the House, as he sought clarity on what punitive measures the Government was enforcing to bring sanity.Prof Luo said the ministry was reviewing the Higher Education Act and strengthening the law to deal with honorary degrees.
In response to UPND Mazabuka MP Garry Nkombo, on why she brought such a statement instead of addressing other pertinent matters affecting the country, the minister said Zambia was likely to lose its education status if individuals were left to obtain titles they did not deserve.