My education: Universidad Internacional, Panama

The Universidad Internacional, Panama (also known by its English name International University) was a government-accredited private university in Panama in existence between 2000 and 2012. The university was founded on 27 March 2000. It was accredited and authorized by an act of the Panamanian government (Decreto Ejecutivo no. 225, of 29 May 2003, following the Decreto Ley no. 16 of 11 July 1963). All university-level programs offered in Panama are subject to approval by the CONEAUPA (the National Council for Accreditation of the University of Panama).

The University was listed in the list of recognized universities provided by the Dirección Nacional de Educación Superior. The link below is to the 2009 edition of the list.

>>Listado de Universidades Reconocidas (2009)

The University was also listed in the World Higher Education Database published by the International Association of Universities and UNESCO. The screenshot below is taken from the database as it appeared in April 2009.

As of 2009, the Rector of the University was Ingeniero Pablo Tuñon Vegas and the President was Jorge Laurencena, former rector of Columbus University, Panama. The University positioned itself as a progressive and forward-looking institution offering programs of study at Licenciatura, Maestria and Doctorado levels. There were two campuses, in Panama City (Calle 55 El Cangrejo) and in La Chorrera (Avenida de Las Américas, al lado de Rodelag). Programs were offered either fully on-campus, by mixed campus and distance mode, or fully by distance learning. The on-campus programs included evening classes for working students.

The Doctor of Education with specialization in Higher Education (Doctorado en Educación con Especializacion en Docencia Superior) program was marketed to educational practitioners within Panama and to both Spanish and English-speaking students in the United States of America. The aims of the program were as follows:

  1. Increase efficiency and effectiveness in educational management in the context of the problems in higher education.
  2. Contribute to the principles, aims and norms of education by promoting the improvement of the quality of education at the highest level of the country.
  3. Train capable and qualified professionals with modern techniques that can apply their knowledge at the managerial level in the different categories and modalities of the National and International Educational System projected to the demands of service excellence.

The Study Plan was designed to be offered in six four-month periods of sixteen weeks each, plus a final thesis. The majority of courses required forty-five sixty-minute academic hours (or equivalent) and granted three academic credits; others were assigned two credits. The total of credits for the program was seventy-two.

I was a candidate for the Ed.D. degree via the University’s then-appointed representative office in the United States of America. This meant that, although I am competent in the Spanish language, I could also submit materials in English for assessment. I completed the degree requirements under the guidance and assessment of three professors and undertook a final dissertation, which was an expansion of my earlier published work on the history of American distance learning pioneer Central University, Indiana. Other aspects of the program that particularly interested me were the opportunity to focus on my principal professional interests of comparative international education and distance education, and to draw upon my experience of administration and management in further and higher education settings. I began to formalize most of my work for the program in 2005, although my thesis drew upon earlier research, and the final submission was made in April 2009. I received notification of my successful result from Dr Laurencena, and my degree was duly awarded on 25 June 2009. I transcripted seventy-three semester hours of graduate credit with a grade point average of 2.88 out of the maximum 3.0 used in the University’s grading scale, equivalent to an overall A grade.

My Doctor of Education degree certificate (obverse)

My Doctor of Education certificate (reverse, showing the Apostille issued by the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Relations)

Several years after my graduation, in 2011, the University was admonished by the CONEAUPA for offering programs that it had not approved. In August 2012, it was determined by CONEAUPA that the University had repeated this behaviour and CONEAUPA passed a resolution determining that the University had committed a serious offence. On 4 December 2012, the President of the Republic of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, signed Decreto Ejecutivo no. 1205 (promulgated in the Official Gazette no. 27,177 of 5 December 2012), which cancelled the University’s operating license. No information was provided to alumni concerning these issues at the time, and I did not become aware of the University’s problems until after the University had ceased to exist. It appears that some form of operation by the University continued for a period after 2012, but I do not know under what authority this was undertaken.

It remains the case that those degrees issued by the University between its accreditation in 2003 and its closure in 2012, including my own Ed.D. degree in 2009, were issued by an university that was fully accredited by the Panamanian government.