University Degree Program
- Not to be confused with University Consulting, Inc., another diploma mill group
(UDP) is an unaccredited
consortium of diploma mills
run by Americans
Jason and Caroline Abraham (of Brooklyn, New York
; also known by their Hebrew
names Yaakov and Chaya Rochel) beginning in the 1990s. In 2004, The Chronicle of Higher Education
called UDP the "granddaddy" of diploma mill operations.
The Chronicle reported that the University Degree Program recruited "students" over the telephone from call centers in Romania (where the call center also sold fake international driver's licenses) and Israel. Telephone salespeople, who were paid on commission and received performance-based bonuses, could offer degrees in any field requested. The Abrahams created websites for a diverse variety of bogus institutions whose names were printed on diplomas. Customers were not told which of these "universities" would issue their degree. According to the Chronicle, UDP sent a letter to customers stating: "The policy of not disclosing the name of the University protects you against unscrupulous individuals who do not approve of self study and life style improvement." The letter also said that this was done to avoid "bad publicity".
The operation was estimated to have sold more than 30,000 "degrees" and received proceeds totaling $50 million to $100 million or more.
Two victims of the UDP fraud interviewed on BBC News reported that between 1996 and 2002 institutions of the non-accredited University Degree Program claimed to be subsidiaries of reputable universities such as the Glasgow Caledonian University or the City University of London and ran an actual distant-learning program online or by mail. The correspondence addresses of the bogus institutions were in the immediate vicinity of these universities in order to create a genuine background along with the websites. Study material was prepared in accordance with the syllabus on the website and was regularly sent to the students, who previously had agreed to pay a yearly tuition fee. According to BBC News significant efforts were made to let these institutions blend into the genuine universities with distant-learning programs. These efforts also included personal contact between student and teacher by email or phone. In late 2002 the Abrahams commercialized the operation and began to merely sell their bogus diplomas by using agents.
Early in 2003 the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and British government authorities took action against UDP and related businesses, including the illegal sale of fake international driver's licenses. The FTC filed a preliminary injunction in January, 2003 and amended complaints in February and May, 2003. In May the FTC and Israeli government authorities shut down the call center operation in the Mea Shearim section of Jerusalem. The FTC complaint cited "deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce". The Abrahams "turned over $100,000 in profits" and promised to stop selling degrees.
In 2004, however, the Chronicle reported that email advertising "remarkably similar" to UDP's and phone solicitations using a "nearly identical" script had continued after that agreement, leading observers to think that the UDP or the Abrahams were still operating diploma mills. The Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization observed that some websites that appeared to be University Degree Program "products (or clones)" remained in operation.
Entities associated with UDP
The following are institutions connected to UDP.
- Ashford University (London) (not to be confused with Ashford University of Iowa)
- Brentwick University
- Glencullen University
- Harrington University
- Hartford University website
- Hartley University
- Kingsfield University
- Landford University
- Northfield University
- Oaklands University
- Parkhurst University
- Parkwood University
- Shaftesbury University .
- Shelbourne University
- Shepperton University
- Stafford University
- Thornewood University
- University of Bedford
- University of Devonshire
- University of Dorchester
- University of Dunham
- University of Hampshire
- University of Palmers Green
- University of San Moritz
- University of Ravenhurst
- University of Wexford
- Westbourne University
- Westhampton University
The following are unrecognized accreditation associations of higher learning
connected to UDP.
- Distance Learning Council of Europe (DLCE: accrediting)
- European Council for Distance & Open Learning (ECDOL: accrediting)
- European Committee for Home and Online Education (ECHOE: accrediting))
Websites shut down by the FTC
The following are websites used by the UDP that were closed by the Federal Trade Commission
- www.ashforduniversity.org (domain for Ashford University)
- www.brentwickuniversity.org (domain for Brentwick University)
- www.henryheston.com.cnchost.com (domain containing sites for the University of Devonshire, Glencullen University, Harrington University, and Shelbourne University)
- www.kingsfielduniversity.org (domain for Kingsfield University)
- www.landforduniversity.org (domain for Landford University)
- www.northfield-university.org (domain for Northfield University)
- www.parkwooduniversity.org (domain for Parkwood University)
- www.thornewooduniversity.org (domain for Thornewood University)
- www.universityofravenhurst.org (domain for the University of Ravenhurst)
- www.universityofwexford.org (domain for the University of Wexford)
- www.westbourneuniversity.org (domain for Westbourne University)
People with UDP degrees
- Perry Beale, who was convicted of defrauding hospitals in Virginia by representing himself as a medical physicist, claimed to hold graduate degrees from the University of San Moritz
- Leonard Ingram (AKA "Bhagwan Ra Afrika"), a self-proclaimed anger management specialist, claims a PhD in philosophy from Glencullen University. Ingram has written several books and appeared on season five of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! in the episode entitled "Anger Management".
- Kostas S. Margaritis (Κώστας Σ. Μαργαρίτης), Greek politician, member of New Democracy (Greece) lists a degree from Shelbourne University.
- In 2005 a Pennsylvania children's mental health counselor, Leon Shal, was charged with several counts of fraud in connection with his use of a Shaftesbury University bachelor's degree to obtain employment. A state investigation reported that the institution was neither recognized nor accredited in the United Kingdom or the United States and that Shal's university diploma contained two misspellings. Shal avoided trial, but was placed in a pretrial diversion program.
- George Weah, a retired Liberian football player turned politician, lists a degree from Parkwood University.