College charges €18,000 fees for 'useless' degrees
A COLLEGE run by foreign businessmen has been accused of offering effectively "worthless" degrees and doctorates from the grounds of a prestigious third-level institution.
The self-styled Warnborough College is charging up to €18,000 in fees for unrecognised qualifications after renting offices at All Hallows College in Drumcondra, Dublin.
Following inquiries from the Irish Independent, All Hallows confirmed it will not be renewing its rental arrangement with Warnborough.
Using a slick website, Warnborough runs a so-called "distance learning" college where students from all over the world are offered course work over the internet.
Until recently the website included a photograph of All Hallows and made references to graduation ceremonies and seminars that were due to take place there.
However, the Irish Independent has established that the courses offered by Warnborough College are not recognised by the Department of Education.
The courses are also not recognised by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), which described the qualifications on offer as effectively "worthless".
Neither is Warnborough College, which also has offices in Canterbury in Kent, recognised by the UK Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills as an institution with the power to award its own degrees.
Education chiefs are furious Warnborough College has linked itself to All Hallows, whose degrees are validated by Dublin City University.
All Hallows last night said it was concerned about the presence of Warnborough College on its grounds.
It confirmed it would not be renewing its rental agreement with the college.
Since last July, Warnborough College has rented offices at All Hallows. Prior to that, it had offices above a pub in Bray.
But despite this, the head of Warnborough last night said claims it had tried to link itself to All Hallows were "ludicrous".
Warnborough's website lists fees of €18,000 for a bachelor's degree, while fees for an MA course cost €9,000, an MBA €10,500 and a doctorate €16,000.
However, NQAI chief executive Sean O Foghlu said: "Warnborough College is not a recognised higher education institution or awarding body. The qualifications on offer are effectively worthless."
He said students needed to the careful when applying for third-level programmes to ensure that the course they select provides a recognised qualification at the end.
However, Dr Gabriel Byrne, a member of the adjunct faculty at the Smurfit Business School in UCD who has been acting in a personal capacity as a consultant for Warnborough in Ireland, denied that the college was a "degree mill" or engaged in "selling" degrees.
"It is not a postage service where you send in money and get a degree. There is a lot of work involved," Dr Byrne said.
He claimed those running the college were "doing a very reputable job".
He accepted that the qualifications being offered were not recognised, but said he hoped they would be approved by HETAC in the near future.
Responding to questions from the Irish Independent, Mr Tempest-Mogg said: "Warnborough College does not sell qualifications, nor are its qualifications worthless.
"The suggestion that Warnborough Collge have used the umbrella of All Hallows as some type of fraudulent cover for our legitimate activities is ludicrous and is totally refuted," he said.
All Hallows vice-president John Joe Spring confirmed to the Irish Independent that Warnborough Collge had been renting some office space from them.
But he added: "All Hallows has no involvement of any kind in the academic programmes or arrangements of Warnborough College."
"In the past six months there was some concern raised about the perception of the relationship between All Hallows and Warnborough.
"A picture of All Hallows was being used on their website. There was also references to a seminar and a graduation ceremony that was not booked in through All Hallows.
"All Hallows asked for that information to be removed and in January we informed them that we would not be in a position to renew their office rental agreement with them as of August 2008."
Although the photograph of All Hallows was removed from the Irish website, it remained on Warnborough's UK website last night.
Warnborough has applied for recognition from HETAC, which has first to agree its quality assurance procedures before programmes can be considered.
The Council will set up an independent external panel in accordance with procedures to consider the situation.
The college was originally founded in Oxford in 1973 by Australian national Brenden Tempest-Mogg (62) and continued to operate from rented premises until it collapsed in acrimony in the mid-1990s.
It hit the headlines in 1995 for recruiting overseas students who thought they were going to Oxford University.
Amid threats of legal actions from disgruntled American students, it closed down the following year.
However, within seven months the college had registered as a company in Ireland with offices in Cork and Brenden Tempest-Mogg and Malaysian national Kee Guan Ng (35) as its directors.
It later transferred to premises in Bray where it called itself Warnborough University.
It was forced to change its name to 'college' after being informed by the Department of Education it was in breach of the 1997 Universities Act.
Warnborough College's offices at All Hallows were closed yesterday and calls to its phone number were diverted to an office in the UK.