Last call for advice before I commit to an unaccredited university!

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by pbocij, Mar 7, 2002.

  1. pbocij

    pbocij member

    Hi All,

    This is a call for any last-minute advice before I commit to an unaccredited university.

    Basically, I'm interested in a PhD programme dealing with cyberculture, in particular new forms of cybercrime. I'm not interested in the technological aspects of cybercrime at all. My interest is in cultural/sociological issues related to areas such as hate crimes.

    I've obviously applied to a number of UK universities (seven) but had rejections from each one on the basis that it hasn't been possible to put together a suitable supervisory package. It seems that each of these universities has assumed that my research would be cross-disciplinary, needing expertise in IT, criminology, psychology and sociology. Nothing I say seems to convince them otherwise! Please believe me when I say that it's not a case of a poor research proposal - I'm not a newcomer to research since I used to work as a university researcher, already have a MPhil and am well-published (numerous books and papers).

    I've tried looking around for a suitable university in the USA, South Africa and Australia with very little success. A message posted on this board resulted in two excellent recommendations but they were, unfortunately, out of my price range. In the end, I've settled on an unaccredited USA university that appears to have a reasonable reputation. Just before I actually pay out my (very) hard-earned cash, I thought I'd ask members for their opinions and any last thoughts.

    Here are my questions:

    1. Before I commit to an unaccredited university, can anyone recommend a suitable accredited alternative? My requirements are basically low cost (must be $3500 USD pa or less) and no residency (must be totally DL).

    2. If I go with an unaccredited - but completely legal - university, am I in danger of being branded a fraud in the future? I'm not interested in teaching (my MPhil is adequate in terms of credentials for university teaching anyway) so this isn't an issue. I would, however, use the title when writing new books, papers, etc.

    As usual, any opinions and information are very welcome.
  2. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    Did you look into Curtin University's Ph.D. program in Internet Studies? I really do think they'd take you, and the price (once you convert AU$ to US$) is likely much less than you'd be shelling out for the unaccredited program. You might also consider the University of South Africa, which offers a Ph.D. in Criminology that can be tailored to your field.

    That said: I can't really comment further until you tell me which school you're talking about. There are some unaccredited schools that are really quite good, and then there are some that are blatant degree mills. Between those two extremes, there are plenty of gradients.

    I also have no way of predicting what the unaccredited doctorate might do to your career, pro or con; John Gray obviously wasn't hurt by his Columbia Pacific Ph.D., but then I could name several cases where someone earned a doctorate from another legitimate unaccredited school, was "outed" for it, and suffered greatly as a result. I wouldn't necessarily call a legitimate unaccredited doctorate a time bomb on your resume, because there's no guarantee that it would explode; but I think a comparison to nitroglycerine might be appropriate.

    That said, your decisions are your decisions. If you choose to do a doctorate from an unaccredited school, you'll have to live with the positive or negative consequences; not me. I have no control over what you choose to do, and what you choose to do has no effect on me.

    Just the same, good luck--and for what it's worth: if I were you, I would keep asking around on the possibility of doing a recognized doctorate before sending out an application to an unaccredited school. I've been looking for a doctorate since 1996, co-written two books on distance education and co-researched three others, and I'm not sure I've even come close to a comprehensive understanding of my options as a nonresident doctoral student. For example, I've left India basically untouched--even though there are literally dozens of options over there that nobody has really explored. I haven't contacted any major universities in Canada--even though I've been told that at least two people have done nonresident doctorates from same. I haven't explored the possibility of combining local coursework, correspondence coursework, and nonresident doctoral research to do a nonresident Ph.D. from a sufficiently open-minded regionally accredited U.S. institution--even though I've been told in no uncertain terms that this has been done. There are so many things I haven't done, and I've been at this for years. I think you underestimate your options.

  3. tcnixon

    tcnixon Active Member


    Tom Nixon
  4. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    I don't know what you plan on doing once you've earned this degree (accredited or otherwise). Do you plan on working for some corporation or for yourself (such as in a consultancy situation) but my advice is that you contact some prospective employers and try to determine if the unaccredited degree you are considering will be a plus or a minus to your candidacy. I suspect that you may be better off earning an accredited degree that is not precisely in your area of interest (such as those mentioned in Toms post) than in obtaining an unaccredited degree in the exact area of your interest. (just one "non-computer guys" opinion)
  5. If you're going with an unaccredited program, my advice would be to avoid those institutions that might make you a laughing stock: e.g. Berne, Century, Columbia Commonwealth, Eurotechnical. Actually most of them! California Coast and California Pacific may be a cut above most, but probably don't have the field you are after. Maybe this is a case for Greenwich???

    As an aside, I'm sure you understand that "completely legal" depends on where you are!
  6. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Yes, I've recently been in touch with Professor Matthew Allen at Curtin University of Technology. They would definitely be interested in this topic. I proposed something similar but have chosen a different direction. The tuition is AU$ 18,000 per year though for full time foreign students, which is approx. US $9,000. There is a half-time option at half the tuition (US $4,500). The only hitch is that you can use Stafford Loans to pay for it. Professor Allen seems like he would be great to work with.


    ([email protected])

  7. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Rather than go unaccredited I would search a bit more.

    Try University of Zululand. They are GAAP & extremely affordable.
    You can do a research proposal and they seem to cooperate well between departments.

    An unaccredited degree may risk becoming the butt of ridicule in the future. I would be very careful before choosing the unaccredited option. You may want as much utility from the degree as possible. Look what happened with Columbia Pacific U. Well meaning people did degrees there and then found their institution the butt of some very critical and embarassing remarks by the State of California.


  8. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Correction: The only hitch is that you CAN'T use Stafford Loans to pay for it.

    ([email protected])

  9. Howard

    Howard New Member

    May I second that you try the University of Zululand.....and you might want to go to the South African Theological Seminary as a way of cutting through red tape. They will be disassociating themselves from Zululand within a year but present students will continue and will receive the degree from Zululand. The departments work together and you will have a respected degree.

    If you are not going to spend the money to get either a RA or GAAP degree just buy one - it will give you basically the same utility. Or start a church and award yourself a degree, perfectly legal since the government cannot regulate church degrees.

    Seriously, consider all the posts concerning "time-bombs" before you obtain a non-accredited degree.
  10. pbocij

    pbocij member

    Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to consider my questions and provide their advice. I'm certainly going to look into University of Zululand but the other suggestions made are, unfortunately, out of my price range.

    Here's a strange thing: having mentioned in one application that I might be going for a foreign university, the place I spoke to suddenly wants to reconsider my application. Could it also have something to do with the fact that I've already published a couple of papers on my preferred topic and there's glory to be had? ;)

    Once again, thanks for all of the replies and I'll let everyone know what I eventually decide.

  11. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    If seven universities agree in thinking that your project will need cross-disciplinary resources that you think that you won't need, that suggests to me that either: 1. You are not describing your project very well, or, 2. You are not being realistic about what it will require.

    I would suggest: 1. Repackaging your search in terms of established disciplines such as sociology, with an emphasis on on-line interactions, rather than on vaguely defined "cyberculture". 2. Investigating the research interests of faculty teaching at your candidate institutions, and tailoring your proposal to be more relevant to those interests. 3. Perhaps tightening up your proposal's focus a bit if necessary.

    I think that if you are really serious about this, your best bet would be one of your own British low-residency doctorates. The cost would probably be lowest that way.

    And let's face it: the UK is a physically compact country. A low residency program might only require you to show up a few times a year, and you have dozens of local state-subsidized universities within a day trip's range of you. I would suggest that your 'total DL' requirement limits your choices too much.

    It makes more sense to enroll in a program 100 miles away that you can easily visit periodically than in an Australian program way off in the antipodes that may suddenly decide to require your physical appearance for some trivial reason. Few of these "research" doctoral programs will guarantee absolutely no residency.

    If I were you, I would rewrite my proposal and give the local schools another shot.
    You want to "use a title" when writing books and papers. What kind of books and papers? Popular writing is influenced by that stuff, but not very much. Professional audiences will probably be unmoved. Academic papers rarely list authors' "titles". They do list institutional affiliations, which are more important. If you want increased peer recognition among academics, I'd suggest that you spend the time that you would have spent on a non-accredited doctorate getting some articles and stuff published to raise your profile in the community.

    If you earn a non-accredited doctorate, I do think that there is some danger of your being labeled a flake. That's particularly true when your field is avant-garde. Just look at how the "new age" and "wholistic health" world turned out. You may add something to your aura with a non-accredited doctorate, but the effect might only be positive within a subculture and negative in wider mainstream academia.

    Imagine that things go as you plan. You get a non-accredited doctorate and your career proceeds well. You do some work that gathers attention but also heated disagreement. You know perfectly well that academic politics is back-stabbing politics. If your critics discover that you have a non-accredited doctorate, do you really think that they will keep quiet about it? Or will it be exploited in ad-hominem attacks on your credibility? Your non-accredited doctorate will become an albatross around your neck if you become in any way controversial.
  12. Maven

    Maven New Member

    Once again, thanks for all of the replies and I'll let everyone know what I eventually decide.

    The whole focus of this forum is what others think of you. As with anything in life you need to decide what is best for you and not be concerned with how others view you. When you pay attention to how others view you, you will become a product of them and not of your heart and mind. Think for yourself and trust in your own judgement. Those who have achieved greatness do it while believing in themselves and ignoring the nay-sayers. I am in the extreme minority on this forum though I hold 2 distance RA degrees and one distance non-RA. If I had listened to the people on this forum I would have missed out on the best educational experience of my life. Examine the possibilities for yourself. Then and only then will you make the "right" decision.
  13. Gus Sainz

    Gus Sainz New Member

    Maven makes some excellent points. However, since (with very few exceptions) the only logical reason to choose an unaccredited degree is a desire to have people laugh at you (and trust me, they will laugh), may I suggest instead the following?

    Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Clown College
    1401 Ringling Drive South
    Venice, Florida
    34285 U.S.A.

    Or visit for a list of Circus Arts courses in the United States.

    Although, admittedly, they might not enable you to provoke as much laughter as an unaccredited degree, at least you will be considered a professional.
  14. Maven

    Maven New Member

  15. bgossett

    bgossett New Member

  16. Maven

    Maven New Member

  17. Guest

    Guest Guest


    Which of your degrees are RA (BA, MA?) and which is non-RA (doctorate?)? What influenced your decision to go non-RA on the one, and how has that degree impacted you?
  18. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I both agree and disagree with that. It goes to the heart of my view of non-accredited schools.

    If a student doesn't have a degree objective and is interested only in education, then I don't think that accreditation is terribly important. Independent study in a library is obviously valuable, but it isn't accredited. Getting instruction from friends or coworkers isn't accredited, but we learn much of what we know that way. So I see nothing wrong with an institution setting up a more formal educational program and helping students get in touch with mentors.

    I've long been a supporter of some California approved schools, when used for those purposes.

    But if a student's objective is to earn a *degree*, and then to use that degree out in society, things are very different. People list their degrees in order to try to influence employers, colleagues, students, readers, patients and clients. What other reason is there for an author wanting to use a 'title' when writing?

    Influencing what other people think of you and how they receive your work is the whole POINT of publicly using a degree.

    Bottom line: I think that *education* is inherently individual, but that *certification* is inherently social.
  19. Maven

    Maven New Member

  20. Maven

    Maven New Member

    RA's are BS, MBA and Ph.D is nonRA. My parents were the driving force behind the RA's and the Ph.D non. I really enjoy the depth of discovery and the freedom that the non-RA route allows. I am confident in my mind that RA Ph.D distance programs could provide the same thing. After searching most distance DL schools as most of us do here, the non-RA was right for me. I am not a member of the academic world so accreditation is not really an important issue. My career in Strategic Management doesn't necessitate an accredited or non-accredited Ph.D, so my choice was much easier.

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