There has been a lot of discussion about the Central University of Nicaragua's agreements with unaccredited schools to produce PhD degrees for graduating at those partner schools. As someone who has no dog in the hunt, I'd like to see if the discussion can be restarted. There are many interesting, even exciting elements to this, but there are also some caveats to consider when contemplating this scheme. This is going to be a mixture of observable facts with some opinions mixed in. I trust readers will be able to discern the difference. First, a small bit about your reporter. I've been working in and around nontraditional higher education since 1978, having counseled thousands of working professionals interested in pursuing higher degrees. I've taught for seven universities, some online and some in the traditional classroom. All of my own degrees were earned nontraditionally. My undergraduate degrees were earned primarily by examination. My master's (MBA) was primarily classroom-based (night school). I hold a PhD earned at a nontraditional, short-residency program. In it, I designed my own PhD specializing in nontraditional higher education. I also hold another doctorate where I studied human resource development. My first 6 degrees came from regionally accredited, not-for-profit US universities, while my second doctorate is from a pre-1992 university in the UK. I'm a Professional Certified Coach, a Certified Professional in Talent Development, and a Senior Professional in Human Resources, and I have more than 40 years of talent development experience including 32 years serving my country both in and out of uniform. The Universidad Central de Nicaragua (Central University of Nicaragua--NOT "University of Central Nicaragua) is a university in the Central American country of Nicaragua. By all accounts, it is a sincere and legitimate school, established about 25 years ago. The school is properly recognized as a university and, in my opinion, is unremarkable (in a good way). On the other hand, the UCN is not ranked by the Times, which lists more than 2,100s universities. But that's not particularly remarkable since there are probably 10,000 or more degree-granting institutions in the world. Also, the national higher education system of Nicaragua is not ranked in the top 100 in the world. But that doesn't mean it can't have schools within it that are of good quality. These are not deal-killers, but worth considering. UCN is notable for entering into agreements with unrecognized schools from other countries to award UCN degrees for studies completed at those schools. There is nothing particularly remarkable about such an arrangement; there have been other schools from other jurisdictions who have entered into these "validation" agreements. The result is usually an award (a term frequently used outside the US system) from the unrecognized school (but not always) and from the recognized school. Again, nothing really remarkable about this...provided the underlying process is rigorous and the awarding school exercises its due diligence. In some arrangements, like Empresarial University (Costa Rica), this doesn't appear to be the case. But from what I've seen, this isn't the case with UCN. I have no reason to think there is anything illegitimate about the awards issued by UCN based on work with its partner schools. But what about the fact that the degree comes from a foreign school? Well, when UCN was established, decisions about foreign schools' credentials were made on an ad hoc basis, situation by situation. It was during that time that our esteemed colleague, John Bear, introduced a concept he called "GAAP" (Generally Accepted Accreditation Principles--coined from a similar term from accounting.) This captured a concept in use by admissions officials at colleges and universities to judge the veracity of foreign credentials. The big question: was the degree in question from a source comparable to an accredited school in the US? To determine this, several resource books were used, including the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook and the International Handbook of Universities. Being listed in one of these meant your school's degrees would normally acceptable to admissions officials. In fact, the organization of admission officials (AACRAO) provided this service for awhile. But that was then and times have changed. Since that time, we've seen the rise of foreign credential evaluation services. They, in turn, have formed an industry group--NACES--attempting to set some standards about this. But there are still significant variations from service to service. Still, if you're a graduate from a foreign university and can produce an evaluation report from a NACES member attesting to your degree's equivalence to one issued by an accredited school in the US, your degree will often be acceptable. But one catch: your mileage may vary. One service may give you a thumbs-up and another will deny you. And this is what we've seen (so far) with UCN. We've seen reports of a UCN PhD being evaluated successfully by one NACES member (IEE), yet another (WES) having a standing policy against it. (It is not clear to me if WES's objections stem from the UCN itself, or from the particular scheme we're discussing. That distinction might matter.) If the opportunity you seek using this degree requires the use of a particular service (like WES), you might find yourself frustrated. On another note: being evaluated as a foreign university who issues degrees equivalent to those issued by regionally accredited US schools does NOT mean that school is regionally accredited. Foreign degree evaluation services are private companies and have nothing to do with the accreditation process; they do not have the power to award such recognition. (The regional accreditors are recognized by two bodies--CHEA and the US Department of Education--not foreign degree evaluators.) Also, it's important to keep in mind that just because a school achieves a particular level of recognition, that doesn't make all the schools at that level equal. Yale and Slippery Rock are both regionally accredited, and no one is saying that makes them equal. Just because a graduate of UCN might be able to obtain a successful equivalency evaluation doesn't mean that degree will be acceptable to employers. In sum: a PhD earned this way from UCN appears to be a legitimate degree from an indistinct school part of an indistinct national system. It may or may not be acceptable for employment purposes--in higher education or industry--depending on the judgment of the receiving party. It is clearly less acceptable than a degree from a US university, but there are no universal standards and no way to judge to what extent this is true. Also, your individual experience may vary tremendously, with one person finding it highly useful and another being frustrated. Pros: Successful candidates earn a legitimate degree. There is some evidence that degree can be evaluated as equivalent to degrees awarded by US RA schools. The process seems to be relatively inexpensive. The degrees--earned in one non-English-speaking country and awarded in another--can be done in English. In most situations--perhaps all for some people--no one will know and no one will care. Cons: The degree comes from a school no one has heard of in a notably non-prestigious national system. Some might question earning a degree this way. The likelihood of your degree being unacceptable is significantly higher. The likelihood your degree will not receive a successful evaluation is very real. Conclusions: I'm not interested in the "my degree is better than yours" discussion. It's lame and demeaning to both sides. A PhD from UCN appears to be legitimate, presenting no reason to think otherwise. The possibility of your degree being rejected is very real. The possibility of a regionally accredited degree being unacceptable is real, too. Just not as much. We don't know how much more (or less) one degree's acceptability is from the other. It's unclear whether the scheme of working on a degree at an unrecognized school to earn this one affects its utility. The Big Idea: This process (and resulting degree) aren't worthy of criticism. On the other hand, those who have "a dog in this hunt" might tend to overstate things. And THAT is worth a response. (Remember the graduates of NA schools getting all bent because their pronouncements that NA equals RA were refuted? Same dynamic.) So, that's it. I'm claiming a particular expertise in this field and I'm using it to examine an interesting and dynamic approach to earning a PhD. I am in no way interested in those who will want to make personal attacks the substitute for cogent arguments and relevant discussion. But there is still more to be understood here, and I hope others will strive to achieve that and to enlighten us all.