The common pursuit

It seems to me that the great characters of the classroom are a dying breed. By that, I do not mean that teaching does not now, as it always has done, attract men and women of conspicuous ability and inspire in them remarkable service. But the culture of teaching has changed. That change was in process before my time, but took a significant step forward while I myself was at school, spurred by the Thatcherite ethos, and had gathered pace under Tony Blair when I came to teach in my twenties and thirties. Now the process appears largely complete.

The detailed examination of the roots of that change can be left for another time, but its manifestations are easily noted; the micro-management of the classroom, the increase in bureaucracy, the demand for uniformity (dare one say, blandness), and the reductive nature of the examination system. As backdrop, we might cite both the loss of our civil religion – Christianity not so much as a system of religious observance, but as the warp and weft of our national life – and the vaunting of low culture at the expense of high. We might also cite the way in which our universities have turned away from scholarship for its own sake, and from an emphasis on their life as a community of scholars, to one of narrower specialisms, more circumscribed intellectual enquiry, an emphasis on quantitative output, and the imposition of scientific method and peer review upon the arts and humanities. It is a form of commodification; a set of values that a generation ago would have been dismissed as inappropriate for an academic setting because their commercialism cheapens and ultimately debases scholarship.

The foundation of most learning is curiosity, and the effective teacher builds on this curiosity to foster enthusiasm and knowledge. Boundaries are inimical to such an approach. It can be summed up as “scholarship for its own sake”, or the traditional phrase “a liberal education”.

This attitude was once the dominant paradigm in our education system, both at secondary and postsecondary levels. The quality of donnishness – not so much “teaching” as instruction, but more akin to the shared exploration of a subject – was born in the universities but also could be applied to many schoolteachers who saw in their work a particular scholarly vocation both to their pupils and to their subjects, and who continued to make a significant wider contribution to those subjects through creative work, books and research papers.

Intellectually-rounded people were seen as the product of a rounded education; the idea that a detailed knowledge of other subjects informed one’s own specialisms. This perhaps found its greatest expression in the view expressed to me in former years that if one had obtained a good degree from a good university, one could then master and teach any subject within reason. This was reflected in a number of eminent university scholars whose degree was not in the subject they taught (or, in rare cases, who had not earned a degree at all), and many more schoolteachers who were in the same position. Education did not merely teach a given set of facts and precepts, it taught its subjects how to learn, how to conduct research, how to apply critical (and self-critical) faculties, and moreover imparted the development of an aesthetic sense – a sense of discrimination between qualities that led to an appreciation of why some things were superior to others. A more nebulous expression of the same concept came in the form of the role of sport in the liberal education; I must say that this was largely lost on me at school, but in subsequent years I have come to appreciate that there are aspects of character and strategy that are perhaps better expressed in Test cricket than anywhere else.

These values are, I would argue, essentially anti-capitalist and anti-materialist, and do not sit well with reductive models of output and assessment. They are values that precede and supersede those of the computer age, and in which, certainly in the arts and humanities, the love of books is foremost. They give vigour to the learner rather than encouraging passivity. And lastly, they mark out, through merit, those who are capable of insight, even of originality, from those who are merely capable of following instructions. They are values that lend themselves to competition, and that produce an inequality of outcome. Lastly, they are values that have been under threat during much of the past century, and that will survive only with cultivation and determined effort.

The deaths of two of my own teachers at The Latymer School, Edmonton, prompts some reflection on these matters. Brian Binding, who taught me English and was my form tutor in my fourth year, died recently as a result of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 85. Andrew Granath, who taught me History, died last year of COVID-19 at the early age of 68.

The Latymer School, Edmonton (©Google)

Brian Binding read English at Downing College, Cambridge, under F.R. Leavis (whose wife, Queenie (Q.R.) Leavis, a distinguished critic in her own right, was an Old Latymerian). He taught at another of the three schools founded by Edward Latymer, Latymer Upper in Hammersmith (then a direct-grant boys’ grammar school), where his pupils included the late Alan Rickman, before arriving as Head of English at Latymer in Edmonton (also a grammar school, though this one mixed) in the year of my birth, 1972. One of his pupils at Latymer Upper captured something of his essence,

“He had the power of turning an English class into a kind of shared meditation. He could sit perched on a radiator in silence while we watched him think. The most important thing I learned from him was disrespect for the canon, since if he did not like the set text (in our case Much Ado About Nothing) that he was supposed to be teaching he spent the minimum time on it and used the lessons to read Lawrence stories or analyse passages of James.”

Neil Roberts, “Leavisite Cambridge in the 1960s” in F.R. Leavis; Essays and Documents, ed. McKillop and Storer, Sheffield Academic Press, 2011, pp. 14-15.

That freedom of approach was born of intellectual confidence. Leavis is not so much in fashion these days, being very much contrary to the mores of our age. He stood for a certain sort of uncompromising rigour that was unashamedly that of an intellectual elite. In his essays in “Education and the University” (1943), Leavis proposes the university as a “focus for the finer life of cultural tradition” and draws attention to the disappearance of the traditional liberal education in favour of increasing specialisation. He writes “if something is not done…this country will not long retain, and will not deserve to retain, any of the influence belonging to the culturally senior partner.” Essential to Leavis’s argument, too, is a confidence in the qualitative pre-eminence of English literature over its foreign counterparts, not from crude jingoism, nor from innate superiority, but rather that “greater maturity means – or should mean – greater vitality.”

Although there were certainly those who studied with Leavis and reacted against his approach, those who were sympathetic to his ideas formed a kind of scholarly disciplehood, gathered among the university faculties and the better schools, which was designed to perpetuate the values that Leavis and his followers held dear. It was to their numbers, presumably, that Leavis (echoing Matthew Arnold) addressed his words “in any period it is upon a very small minority that the discerning appreciation of art and literature depends: it is (apart from cases of the simple and the familiar) only a few who are capable of unprompted, first-hand judgment. They are still a small minority, though a larger one, who are capable of endorsing such first-hand judgment by genuine personal response.”

In his essay quoted above, Neil Roberts speaks of the network of which Brian Binding was a part, and the way in which informal contacts directed able school-leavers to sympathetic dons as they became the next generation to carry the torch. He says of the influence of Leavis that this persuaded him that “the study of literature is a compellingly serious matter”. This was also something that I understood both from Brian Binding’s teaching and from his example, and not merely literature but culture more generally. I thought it significant that in the mid-1980s, he did not own a television, nor attached any importance to that medium. What I also remember were his many enthusiasms in literature, and his dry, unstuffy sense of humour allied to a quick wit. He was also a notable pipe-smoker, a pursuit impossible without a modicum of patience and a ruminative desire to sit, think and talk while enveloped in an aromatic, even ethereal, cloud.

But above all, the Leavisite legacy was that of literary criticism. Literary criticism has now been largely replaced by literary theory and its associated cant of postmodernism, post-colonialism, gender and identity politics. Both Leavises would have had none of that, and Q.D. Leavis was a particularly mordant critic of feminism. Some certainly found the Leavis approach forbidding, holding up a standard so high that it would inhibit any but the most confident from thinking they had something worthwhile to say. But that was not my impression. When I came to read the work of both Leavises – some years after Brian Binding had retired from teaching – what struck me was its abundance of sense, its communicative and persuasive qualities, and the confidence of judgment which, even if one sometimes disagreed profoundly with it, was reasoned and not infrequently hit the mark. Enthusiasm and condemnation alike were the consequence of a developed taste; it was inevitable that if one’s attachment was to values and qualities, then one would then discriminate based on them. As I.A. Richards rightly put it in a passage quoted by Leavis, “to set up as a critic is to set up as a judge of values.”

Critical theory never produces the same reactions. Firstly, it is impenetrable, being addressed entirely inward to the academic establishment, and not aiming at a wider audience. Secondly, it is inherently political, framing itself in the language and ideas of post-war Marxism and being inseparable from that creed. Of course that is not to suggest that Leavis was apolitical, or that his disciples did not include those who embraced socialism, but their version of socialism was (and I shall return to this shortly) quite different from that which would take over academia during the first decades of the present century. In particular, it was a socialism whose dialectic of class was not accompanied by a similar dialectic of intellect, and indeed that appealed to a certain kind of social conservatism. It was common in the grammar schools to encounter the view that intellectual merit was to be celebrated and encouraged, and that high culture was an end to which all might aspire irrespective of class – if not as creators or critics, then at least as an appreciative and informed audience. The best things in life were for everyone, and the good teacher would lead his pupils up the foothills of Parnassus, even if not all would make it to the top.

At a selective grammar school, there was an expectation that we pupils would form an intellectual elite – it was certainly the norm there that the majority of school-leavers would go on to the more selective universities. Certainly it was an atmosphere in which scholarship was given primacy and a remarkably free rein, and the values which this produced contributed to the overall humane and civilised ethos of the school. I do not think this had changed too much since the post-war era in which the universities were suddenly opened up to the new influx of working-class students from the grammar schools. That generation certainly proved itself worthy. Unfortunately it would later also show a remarkable propensity for pulling up the ladder behind it, as the selective principle in education came under sustained attack from the establishment and many grammar schools found themselves forced to choose between charging fees or becoming comprehensives.

Another idea of Leavis’s that remains significant to me is that of the “organic community”. In this, he calls upon England’s pre-industrial heritage to recall lives whose rhythms are those of traditional rural life; folk tradition and folk song. This is in essence an anti-modern concept, but one that found much resonance and active revival in the England of Leavis’s time. One might reflect on the utopian socialism of Eric Gill’s community at Ditchling, or the revival of folk traditions in John Hargrave’s Kibbo Kift, or in the economics of Social Credit and Distributism, or in the Guild Socialism that developed out of William Morris’s ideas. Indeed, this was also an era when English music emerged from Continental influence to rediscover its national roots through the folk song revival of Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The Romanticism of these currents was always tempered by a strong measure of practical idealism, and by another English characteristic, the distrust of sentimentality. The appeal, as with Leavis, was to vigour rather than to comfort.

Andrew Granath arrived at Latymer in my fourth year there, and made an immediate impression on our class of GCSE historians. Visually, he was extremely tall and striking in appearance, with features that suggested that he had been hewn out of stone. But it was also obvious from the start that he was the “real thing” academically, with an authority and intensity that made you feel that what was being taught really mattered, and we soon became accustomed to working hard and at a high level. The syllabus in those very early days of GCSE was far fuller than it became when I taught GCSE History a little over a decade later. Andrew brought it all alive. But more than that, he was a remarkably interesting person with an unusually wide range of interests. He was passionate about boxing, and saw in that noble art far more than mere sport. He rode classic motorcycles (as had Brian Binding before him). And he was from Basildon.

Basildon is an unremarkable suburban town in Essex, not a vast distance from Latymer in Edmonton. It is the ostensible subject of Andrew Granath’s only book, Searching for the Promised Land, which he wrote at the age of fifty. This, however, is to underplay its hand. Searching for the Promised Land is a meditation – even in places a Brian Binding-esque meditation – on the essence of Basildon as a metaphor for the changes in the post-war working-class. It is a consciously unruly book; not conventional history, but rather a personal and subjective narrative. At times it is extremely funny, and at others sad, touching and thought-provoking. There is a tone of lamentation for the deliberate destruction of the working-class community that once formed Basildon. One passage emphasises the optimism of the post-war vision, and the way in which it, as with so many visions, came to be corrupted,

“Fifty years ago, in the stasis of the post-war years, it was assumed that the working class was not meant to be aspirational. Give them a watertight house, and elementary education, free health care and a modestly-paid job and the world could carry on indefinitely as if 1955 represented the end of history. Today, in the new, thrusting post-Thatcher Britain where we are all bewildered by the pace of change, it has become a way of life. It is difficult to overstate the optimism that was left at the time for those who had escaped the grim cramped life of inner London. Within the authoritarianism imposed by a lack of choice, a whole new vista opened up to us. It was a grand view of gardens, parks, countryside, neat brick-built houses, open airy schools, bright modern shops and willing citizens revelling in the munificence of government – ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.’ In 2003 it all looks rather different. Talking to the elderly of the town – those who arrived as young adults in the 1950s – there is now a pervasive sense of disillusionment that the dream failed to live up to their expectations. The promises of the good life have not been kept. As Nigel Birch put it to Harold Macmillan at the time of Profumo crisis: “Never glad confident morning again.” It is now impossible to imagine that the state would ever again have the confidence and self-belief to create such a community in the hope that it could transform the quality of peoples’ lives. We truly believed, fifty years ago, that it would be possible to build that shining city on the hill if we all pulled in the same direction.”

That optimism is also seen in a number of his other topics. Inevitably, he discusses socialism, but with a scepticism born of experience of the failures of central planning. As a former member of the Woodcraft Folk (which had grown out of a rift in the Kibbo Kift), he knew utopian socialism at first hand,

“By the 1930s, Letchworth, in particular, had acquired a reputation for what George Orwell rather contemptuously called ‘sandal and nuts’ socialism. It was the Letchworth ILP Summer Schools, with their espousal of progressive utopian ideas, that goaded Orwell into his famous denunciation (in The Road to Wigan Pier) of ‘every fruit juice drinker, nudist, sandal wearer, sex maniac, Quaker, Nature Cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England’. For Orwell, the Letchworth middle class socialist was summed up by the two men who got on his bus while riding through the town. ‘They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top the bus. The man next to me murmured, “Socialists” as who should say “Red Indians”. Every generation has its discontented minority looking for a different way of life. In the 1930s, they flocked to Letchworth, particularly those who had tired of the tyranny of the ‘meat and two veg’ diet of the inter war years. By 1935 the town boasted seven vegetarian restaurants at a time when the whole of London could barely muster the same number. For the ‘simple lifers’ who flocked there, the principle was even more simple – ‘more air, less alcohol’. For Orwell, a meat-eating, chain-smoking, beer-swilling despiser of the middle-class socialists, the lure of Catalonia must have seemed irresistible.”

He might have gone on to add that the rather wonderful bastion of vegetarianism, teetotalism, Theosophy and free-thinking, the Liberal Catholic Church, had been established in Letchworth in 1923 and remains active there today.

This was socialism as a middle-class lifestyle choice, not the struggle of the working-class to overcome very real disadvantages. Among the faddishness, however, there was a genuine energy and some idealism that had more to it than the humbug that Orwell rejected. What Andrew Granath saw was the arc of that idealism; rising in the working-class London-exiled community that formed in the “plotlands” of Basildon where many families built their own homes during the 1930s, only to see them flattened by central planning bulldozers twenty years later. He visited as the last of these awaited demolition, “As I wandered past the neat little houses, I realised for the first time that, although the men and women that comprise government may be perfectly decent people individually, they are, collectively, given some sort of rationale, capable of acting in a grossly unjust manner. And here was the result of this misguided ‘we know best’ attitude.”

The central planning that Andrew Granath decried in Basildon is exactly the same malaise that has affected the teaching profession. All of the changes that have affected teaching in the last twenty years have been imposed from the top down, by governments and others who “know best”. They have, in my view, had the effect (and often deliberately) of vastly reducing the autonomy of the teacher in the classroom. In the early 1970s, Dr Robert Leoline James, who was regarded as one of the great headmasters of Harrow, gave his headmaster protégés the advice, “Appoint the best and leave them alone.” Few schools are always in the position of being able to appoint the best, but it seems to me that one rarely attracts the best with the prospect of endless circumscription and micromanagement.

At the point when I left school teaching in 2005, we had even reached the point where certain established styles of teaching, most notably “chalk and talk” had become officially deprecated. A lesson with Andrew Granath not infrequently consisted entirely of his exposition of a topic followed by dictated notes and the occasional question. Nothing was deemed to be learned until it had been codified. Of course he knew what I later discovered myself as a teacher; making the pupil do something active with the knowledge at hand, such as writing it down for themselves, is usually the best way to get them to remember it. There was nothing stale or passive about those lessons, but they reflected a scholarly approach that, despite its considerable effectiveness, has now become manifestly unfashionable.

Teaching has been diminished by the imposition of a quantifiable matrix that prizes assessment, value for money and accountability ahead of more subjective qualities. Inevitably, in the name of uniformity, much of humanity has found itself squeezed out just as the central planners imposed their stultifying vision on the sprawling individuality of Basildon’s plotlands. And it must also be questioned whether the reductive world of league tables is really cognisant of the true meaning of “accountability” and “value for money”, which have a much wider context than might at first glance be imagined. The aim of liberal education – to produce rounded individuals capable of fulfilling their potential and contributing in full measure to society – has been forgotten because it is by nature not easily quantifiable; it asks too many difficult and subjective questions and those answers that are available do not lend themselves to statistical analysis or computer processing.

I am not a revenant, and have, if memory serves, only returned to my old school on two occasions after leaving, those being both over twenty years ago now. There were, however, two encounters later in life with the teachers I have written about. Brian Binding surprised me one day in my early twenties when I was reading a book outside a café on Hampstead High Street. He told me that he had taken up a second career as a translator in retirement, and was greatly enjoying it, and we shared some memories of Latymer as it had been.

Andrew Granath wrote to me out of the blue in 2012, having found my website. Returning to his words after his death, I am struck both by his kindness and his intellectual curiosity.

“I hope you don’t mind me writing to you like this. It simply occurred to me just a few days ago I wonder what happened to John Kersey, I googled you and was both surprised and delighted to be see how brilliantly prolific and committed you are.

I hardly dare try to understand the sort of issues and beliefs that you are part of but it does seem to be an extraordinary and fascinating world that you have made.  You would have liked my Aunt who died a few years ago. She was a quiet disciple of Joseph de Maistre and Rene Guenon and had an extraordinary collection of early mystical books (hermetic, Rosicrucian and alchemical including first editions of John Dee and Michael Maier) that, to my irritation, were donated to the Warburg Institute. She was a friend of Frances Yates who you may be familiar with.

For Murray Rothbard and Joachim Raff to be admired and appreciated by the same person is a great feat and for that I congratulate you.

Latymer is a very different place from the one that you left I suspect more than twenty years ago. Neither better nor worse but different. For myself I think that I will do one more year after this and will then retire or rather do something else. I hope that you do not mind me sending you this message. Looking at the picture on the your website I can still see very clearly the 16 year old you.”

Of course I replied to him. But how do you say thank you to your teachers and give some idea of what their example has meant to you without lapsing into embarrassing sentimentality? It seems an impossible task. Perhaps there is something less direct that can be done, though. Alan Bennett, himself a grammar school pupil, gave us the definitive study of grammar school life in the early 1980s in The History Boys, which captures the intensity and the intellectual excitement of that experience together with the inevitable emotional complexities of teenage years. The final scene is visited by the spirit of the inspirational Hector, the general studies teacher, who directs his charges to “pass it on, boys”. And that. surely, is what it is all about.

Further reading:

Granath, Magnus C., Searching for the Promised Land: Basildon and the Pursuit of Happiness, London, GoldStar Books, 2004.

Professor of History in the Catholic University “Joseph Pulitzer”, Budapest, Hungary

I have been honoured to receive an appointment as Professor of History in the Catholic University “Joseph Pulitzer”, Budapest, Hungary. The University has been established by the well-known Italian lawyer Prof. Michele Morenghi and offers online courses in the history of the Catholic religion, international tax law, international contract law, cybercrime and other areas.

The University has also entered into a wide-ranging reciprocal recognition agreement with all the institutions under my control.

Fellowship of the National Federation of Church Musicians

I have been delighted to receive Fellowship of the National Federation of Church Musicians. The Federation is administered by the National College of Music, It says of the award, “In order to qualify, candidates are expected to demonstrate at least twenty years of fully-documented service in the field of church music in any denomination of the Christian church as an organist, choir director or singer, making the award of the FNFCM a formal recognition of long and distinguished service.”

Associate Fellowship of the National College of Music

I have been delighted to receive the Associate Fellowship of the National College of Music. The Associate Fellowship was introduced in 2020 and “is designed to recognise professional musicians who have made an outstanding contribution to the musical arena.” The award is reserved “to those who can provide evidence of the highest level of musical expertise during a course of a minimum of ten years. It will therefore be appropriate for conductors, choral directors, recitalists, composers, musicologists and those who have made an exceptional contribution to musical education.”

I was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the National College of Music in 2010, and am very pleased to continue my association with this institution.

Response to falsehoods published online

“We in Britain are entering a dangerous social condition in which the direct expression of opinions that conflict – or merely seem to conflict – with a narrow set of orthodoxies is instantly punished by a band of self-appointed vigilantes.” – Sir Roger Scruton

I wish to state the following in rebuttal of a defamatory article published online in 2017 by one Johnny Vedmore. The allegations put forth in the article are wholly untrue and I will address them in turn below.

My alleged “fake online diploma”

I have never procured any such thing: the Doctor of Education degree that I was awarded by St Regis University, Liberia (for which I paid the fees stated on their website, just as most university students pay fees) was fully earned, not bought. I have written extensively about my experience and views concerning St Regis University, Liberia, and its closure by the government of the United States following Operation Gold Seal. I have made it clear in my article that my dealings with SRU as a student were pursued with integrity and I do not regret my support for SRU. I have known schools with problems similar to SRU overcome those problems and turn around with the right management. I have also known schools that today are very much an established part of the educational mainstream that did not look so very different from SRU during the 1980s and 1990s. It is a tragedy that SRU’s potential was never truly realized.

I have never been contacted on any matter by the FBI or other American law enforcement authorities and therefore I was not contacted at any stage of the investigatory or pre-trial process by anyone connected with Operation Gold Seal. Had I been contacted, I would of course have co-operated fully with any investigation and offered any assistance that I could have provided. None of the vast number of court papers that I have seen (in the course of my own research) identify me or any of my business concerns, which were always fully separate from those of SRU, so I can only doubt the veracity of whatever documents Mr Vedmore claims to have seen.

What is true is that I have consistently advocated for non-traditional distance education for more than twenty years. In my professional practice, I have provided expert opinion on both traditional and non-traditional credentials from all over the world. I have founded and administered several non-traditional institutions myself, and served on the faculties and boards of others. In my exploration of distance education, I have sought quality and distinctive provision among schools that are not part of the mainstream sector, and on quite a few occasions I have found it.

All of my other doctorates are genuine, legally issued credentials, and the status of each one is explained in detail in this website. Three of my doctorates were issued by governmentally accredited universities listed in the International Association of Universities/UNESCO World Handbook of Universities.

The Traditional Britain Group and my supposedly “far-right” views

I remain a Vice-President of the Traditional Britain Group. I look forward to continuing to serve the TBG and am proud of what it has achieved. My speeches to the TBG, available on this website in both video and transcript, with the videos also on YouTube, show my style as hardly being that of the populist rabble-rouser: I am not, as Mr Vedmore has maliciously asserted, a “hate-filled demagogue”. I do believe there is a need to focus on the problems in our society and their negative effects, and I am happy to widen the debate about them.

It is certainly not the case that I “care only for the English”. I have spent the entirety of my student years and subsequent career in international environments, have studied and worked at foreign universities and with people from all over the world, and have devoted considerable effort to educational projects in Africa. Some indication of my international involvement might be gained from the fact that I have been recognized for my work by four governors of states of the USA and President Barack Obama, who awarded me the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service. I hold several honours of a chiefly nature from Africa, and have also received several of similar rank from South-East Asia, including from an Islamic sultanate.

I have never spoken publicly on the issue of climate change. I believe strongly that all have an imperative to care for the natural environment, and find a number of themes in “green” politics with which I agree.

The charge that I am “obviously homophobic” is absurd and baseless. My friends and family members include people who are homosexual. I have worked as a musician, a teacher and a clergyman alongside colleagues who are gay and lesbian without difficulty. As a former officer of the Libertarian Alliance, I argued in a number of papers and blog posts against state interference in matters of sexual choice and expression that are properly the business of the individual. What I have certainly steadfastly opposed is the political use of minority gender and sexual identities as part of the ideology of leftist identity politics and postmodernism. But I also believe that those who disapprove of homosexuality or of aspects of its practice, whether for religious or other reasons, should be free to say so openly. In religious matters, there is a distinction between the doctrinal and the pastoral. I do not interpret the Christian doctrinal position on homosexuality as being other than disapproving, but equally I believe that our pastoral approach to those who are homosexual should be inclusive and supportive.

The alleged “fake” company

I established Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., in 2005 to undertake educational work, including both consultancy and the provision of distance education. I was the sole director of the company. The existence of this company can easily be confirmed with Companies House using their WebCheck service which includes records for dissolved companies. Mr Vedmore’s statement that Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd. “was never a registered company in the UK” is completely false. I should add that since I was a director of Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., from its foundation in 2005, my personal information was on record at Companies House from that date onward. I would hardly have been seeking to keep my name off records in which it had already appeared for several years.

Certificate of incorporation for Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., issued by Companies House

Companies House WebCheck public listing for Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd.

Initial register of Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., showing me as the sole director

My alleged “crimes”

I wish to refute in the strongest terms the comments made by Mr Vedmore that I have ever been a party to an allegation of fraud. Mr Vedmore’s accusation that I have made “a false representation with the intention of making a personal gain, causing a loss to someone else or exposing someone else to the risk of a loss” is an outrageous falsehood manufactured by him seemingly for the sole reason of sensationalism and to attack my integrity. I have never been arrested or questioned in respect of allegations of fraud by any authority either in the United Kingdom or overseas. Regarding my educational work, I have on several occasions had contact with the Department for Education and Skills and its predecessors, and have always been scrupulous to ensure that my institutions are maintained in compliance with relevant laws in the United Kingdom. Regarding the Traditional Britain Group, Mr Vedmore’s comments were clearly aimed at my colleagues in the hope that his lie that I have “risked exposing” the TBG to loss would be followed by my dismissal as they took fright, which of course has not happened.

My office as a bishop and my title of professor are both recognized by H.M. Passport Office and appear as official observations in my passport. I am not “pretending” to be anything that I am not. As to whether I am a “paragon of virtue” that is for others to judge: as a Christian I am certainly not seeking to portray myself in such a way. If my life contains moments of both achievement and recognition, I see no reason to cut myself down to size – even if others seem to want to do so.

I have never been convicted of any criminal offence whatsoever, and in my former career as a teacher was required to hold a full clearance from the predecessor agency of the Disclosure and Barring Service. There are therefore no “safeguarding issues at stake” as is vexatiously alleged.


The major failure of Mr Vedmore’s article seems to me to lie in its lack of humanity. Mr Vedmore has never met me, does not know me, and knows nothing about me other than what little he has managed to glean from the internet. He has not even managed to get the facts straight as shown above. Rather than subject my ideas to robust criticism and debate, which I would welcome, his choice instead is the crude path of libel and personal attack. Even in the heat of political debate, the act of dehumanizing one’s opponent is the mark of the extremist. Unlike Mr Vedmore, I do not demonize others, and indeed I know from personal experience that friendships can form even across the widest of ideological divisions.

I note that Mr Vedmore, in a particularly nasty and mean-spirited previous article, has taken it upon himself to accuse Theresa May’s dead father, on the most absurdly tendentious of grounds, of being a paedophile. He has also previously come to the attention of the blogger Richard Bartholomew, who has written “There’s no point arguing with this sort of author (and those promoting the garbage on Twitter): they don’t give a damn about what’s true or not…All they care about is…weaponizing a concocted claim for some reason or another, usually to do with politics.” Lastly, and perhaps most directly, I recall the words of Dr Andrew Joyce, writing at The Occidental Observer, who has said of the proper approach to such activists, “Our priority is winning cultural influence and political power, not confronting small numbers of social effluent.”

I am grateful to the person who has brought this article to my attention. If anyone has any further information regarding the dissemination of libellous accusations against me, I would appreciate it if they would send them to me (I will preserve their anonymity if they request it.) This will enable me to take the appropriate action against those doing so by the appropriate legal means.

Publication of “La rivolta dei “Boxers” nella Cina dal 1899 al 1901”

I have contributed a preface to the book “La rivolta dei “Boxers” nella Cina dal 1899 al 1901” by Prof. Dr. Luca Scotto Tella de’ Douglas di Castel di Ripa, published by Aracne Editrice in Rome. I am also one of the dedicatees of the book.

The Rebellion of the “Boxers” (boxers, specifically Chinese Boxing practitioners of the Kung Fu Wu Shu), or more correctly the Yihetuan Movement, was the culmination of the nineteenth century Chinese resistance to Western Colonialism and to foreign and Christian influences in China. Foreign colonialism was not the only trigger for the violence that broke out in Shandong and the plains of Northern China, but it was certainly one of the main causes of resentment. After being defeated in several wars, China was forced to allow the incursion of Western culture and influence through unequal treaties. Christian Missionaries, an extension of their Western governments, often disrespected the Chinese people and constantly provoked them. In 1897–98, Shandong Province was hit first by drought and subsequently by floods. Threatened by hunger, the farmers were forced to flee to the cities, however the Missionaries fed only those who converted (the so-called “Rice Christians”). In November 1897, a group of gunmen killed two German Missionaries in what became known as the “Juye incident”.

The book is of 760 pages. It is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Publication of “L’Ordine Equestre del Santo Sepolcro di Gerusalemme”

I have contributed a preface to the book “L’Ordine Equestre del Santo Sepolcro di Gerusalemme” by Prof. Dr. Luca Scotto Tella de’ Douglas di Castel di Ripa in collaboration with Maurizio Cancelli, published by Aracne Editrice in Rome.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (in Latin: Ordo Equestris Sancti Sepulcri Hierosolymitani, OESSH), also called the Order of the Holy Sepulchre or of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, is a Roman Catholic Knightly Order placed under the protection of the Holy See. Its main mission is to “support the Christian presence in the Holy Land”. According to ancient tradition, the Knights had the power to create other Knights, thus obtaining even the privilege of making even those Knights who were not nobles from birth become nobles. In addition, the acquisition of nobility also came from belonging to the Order. Among the privileges of the Order, registered by its Guardian in 1553 and approved by subsequent Popes, were included some of the greatest granted to any Order. Among these we should remember the ancient papal tradition, never repealed, which gives the Knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem the title, granted by the Holy Father as Head of the Vatican State, of Count Palatine “Comes Palatii” (ad personam) of the Sacred Lateran Palace. The Order takes precedence in ceremonies and Apostolic Palaces over any other Religious-Chivalric Order and, according to experts and historians, in the hierarchy of the Pontifical Orders it would come immediately after the Order of the Golden Spur (currently quiescent), according to the ancient custom, although this rule is currently under discussion.

This study of the Order is undertaken from a perspective independent of the Vatican, and considers the Order in its historic, religious and nobiliary context.

The book is of 860 pages. It is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Publication of “Attacco alla Massoneria”

I have contributed a preface to the book “Attacco alla Massoneria” by Prof. Dr. Luca Scotto Tella de’ Douglas di Castel di Ripa, published by Aracne Editrice in Rome.

This powerful monographic text on Freemasonry and its enemy, Anti-Freemasonry, is not only the umpteenth valuable cultural and didactic work of the author, well known and appreciated for his detailed, painstaking, exquisitely interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research (for example, his latest book, on the Kamikaze, Vento Divino, was published by Aracne in January 2019) but also represents an encyclopedic and university-level publication of a unique scientific and academic importance, of international and world caliber, since such a monumental study on Freemasonry, richly illustrated and enriched both by many footnotes, and by a large and highly accurate Masonic, religious, philosophical, spiritual and numerological glossary-dictionary, was never created, much less conceived before now. The topic is treated as usual across the board and so as to allow even those who are not already experts in the field – Freemason, esotericist, Gnostic or professor of History of Religions – to understand this ancient initiatory path, with a core of Solomonic and Hiramitic wisdom and with sapiential, mystical and initiatory contributions from the greatest and most ancient civilizations of our planet. This theme is still unfortunately unknown and misunderstood to most, so much so that the Free Masonry, or Freemasonry, or Royal Art, in the collective imagination, in Europe and especially in Italy, has always been wrongly connected to Satanism, thanks to the totally fictional books invented by Léo Taxil (1854–1907), to the underworld, and even to organized crime, while in reality the greatest philosophers, religious, statesmen, scientists, artists, musicians, captains of industry and philanthropists of history have been Masons. Freemasonry has been and is, in the history of humanity, similar to the sun in that everyone has enjoyed its salutary and life-giving effects (even unwittingly) and whose rays have shone and still shine refracting on every side. Nobody knows how to penetrate its sacred origin, because it is divine, to discover its luminous process and its intimate essence.

With interviews with Lidia Reghini di Pontremoli, Davide Scaranari, Ilenia Mastroscusa, Agostino Mario Cannataro; a Glossary, a Masonic Dictionary and multiple culturally useful curiosities.

The book is of 1,656 pages published in two volumes. It is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

Publication of “Vento Divino”

I have contributed a preface to the book “Vento Divino” by Prof. Dr. Luca Scotto Tella de’ Douglas di Castel di Ripa, published by Aracne Editrice in Rome.

The volume is a comprehensive study of kamikaze pilots and their missions. The topic is treated across the board, also from an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspective: origin of the term, birth, training and personal values, businesses, testimonials, the touching farewell letters of the young pilots, the museums dedicated to them, the cards of the airplanes and vehicles used by both the Japanese and the Allied sides, the semantic restatements. It forms a short and fascinating historical parenthesis that closes the end of the Second World War. Furthermore, the author treats with detail not only the airplane pilots, but also the land and sea suicide bombers, piloting both explosive motorboats – small boats and mini-submarines, pocket-sized, with the explosive warhead and the so-called slow-running torpedoes , dear to the raiders of the Navy, modified for suicide missions.

The book consists of some 808 pages and is available via Amazon and many other booksellers.

Traditional Britain Group Conference 2018

What has gone wrong with our education system? These days more than ever there are profound concerns among the public as to what pupils and students are being taught, and as to the influence of particular political and other ideologies upon both the nature of their studies and the manner in which schools and universities deliver them. In my talk today, I am going to deal with some of these problems and explain some of their roots. In doing so, I will point out some potential solutions. Before any of this, I want to be clear that the reason why these matters are of such concern is because education, above almost anything else, is of crucial importance in establishing our society’s values and in setting the tone for the culture of our nation. We ignore it at our peril. It is one of the most difficult nettles for politicians to grasp, but it is of crucial importance that they do so.

Let us start with the political dimension. Our education system is not run by the government, but primarily by the teaching unions. The prospect of a Secretary of State for Education who is prepared to oppose the teaching unions, to tell them that their comfortable Guardian-reading left-wing shibboleths are harming their charges and selling their pupils short, makes the average teacher’s blood run cold. The only Education Secretary in recent years who dared to take on such a mission was Michael Gove, and I believe the reason he did so was because his own background was one where he had risen from poverty. It was not necessary to explain to him how much education mattered or what difference it made to the life chances of those who received it. He knew those things at first hand, and he also knew that he was facing a wall of left-wing opposition in an attempt to introduce reform and to correct some of the worst excesses of the school system. He called that opposition, consisting of the teaching unions, university education departments, council education officers and myriad more left-wing institutions, “the blob”. Under his tenure, the blob was pushed back and despite its boiling resentment, and voodoo dolls of Michael Gove – made in Brighton – selling like hot cakes, it was contained. Gove’s most important analysis of the problem was when he said that left-wing ideology meant that schools “shouldn’t be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics. These ideologues may have been inspired by generous ideals but the result of their approach has been countless children condemned to a prison house of ignorance.” His plans were radical and rigorous. At one point, they included the abandonment of the GCSE exam and its replacement by a new version of its more rigorous predecessor, the O level, alongside less academic qualifications for less able students, the scrapping of the National Curriculum and the creation of a single exam board in place of the various competing bodies that currently exist.

But politicians are limited by the constraints of the practical. A small but reliable majority in the House of Commons is enough to enable some degree of authority to be wielded. A shrinking and then non-existent majority is a mandate for nothing but the drift of presiding over the status quo. What we have now, in respect of education, is a government that is nominally in charge, but in reality has very limited power. It has withdrawn from the blob, and has let the blob have its own way. Gove could not survive after two of the main teaching unions had passed votes of no confidence in him, 100 academics had signed a letter criticising him for placing too much emphasis on the memorisation of facts and rules, and another 200 prominent figures had issued a further letter criticising his reforms as posing enormous and negative risks to children.

A stronger government, and a stronger Prime Minister, would have backed him, but the political cost had become too high. Gove had become isolated, and it seems to me that he was also being undermined by his own civil servants. His family were receiving death threats from Leftists which his wife described as “vicious and aggressive”. This was the price of a reform that could, if successful, have transformed our education system for a generation. We should salute the considerable courage needed to advance a vision for education that almost nobody actually working in education agreed with. But above all, Gove’s achievement was to say that education did not belong to those who work in it. Rather, it belongs to the pupils who are being educated and whose futures are being decided in consequence. It is their interests which are neglected at the expense of appeasing the education lobby.

Governments with small majorities cannot go to war with the teaching unions. More than that, the Conservative Party knows that if it is to win a majority at the next election it will not do so by appealing to those of us on the Right. We do not meet sufficiently the demographic or numerical targets they need to achieve. In order for them to win, they must persuade people who currently vote Labour to vote Conservative, and the only way they can do that is to appear to be sufficiently soft on areas that Labour traditionally regards as its own – education being a prime example. If the Conservative Party is seen to be opposed to the majority of teachers, it will not only lose their votes but those of many other Labour voters for whom education is a key issue and for whom teachers are put on a pedestal in the same way as those who work in the NHS.

This is why we have seen, particularly over the last few years during which we have had a minority Conservative administration, a veritable tide of damaging nonsense in our schools and universities. We have seen the erosion of their traditional commitment to free speech, with “no platform” policies and crude, intolerant protest silencing voices that do not conform to Leftist orthodoxy. We have seen the rise of grievance studies and the balkanization that results from minority groups being encouraged to seek not merely equality, but dominance. We have seen, in short, the Left in its own ideological bubble, secure on its home turf, playing fast and loose with our young people’s futures and seeking to bring its own ideology to bear not least because traditional education and traditional values have now become the preserve, as the Left would see it, of the “nasty party”. But above all, the issues are these: Trump and Brexit have been two of the most damaging blows the mainstream Left has ever received in recent generations. They have responded to these reversals by uniting and becoming better organized. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn certainly does not appeal to Blairites but it does have a huge appeal to grass roots left-wing Labour supporters who will give him money, time and energy. This is why education, which is seen by the Left as its own territory, has become emboldened in its embrace of lunatic Marxism. They are dealing with a government too weak to oppose them and they are preparing for a time that they believe will come quickly when the Labour Party will be in power again. Against this, the Right is in disarray and the intellectual Right is largely absent. These are things our enemies note and take advantage of.

Let us now consider some of these matters in practice. Until 1990, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness by the World Health Organization in its International Standard Classification of Diseases and Related Problems. That reclassification is, broadly speaking, the point at which attitudes towards homosexuality in respect of British public life began to change profoundly. Now consider that the same organization declassified gender dysphoria, including transsexualism, in March this year. The classification or declassification decisions are not made on an empirical basis, as they would be if we were, for example, discussing human disease. They are made on the basis of a consensus view from psychiatrists, particularly American psychiatrists, and the declassification decisions have also taken into account the lobbying efforts of groups representing homosexuals and individuals with gender dysphoria who object to the classification of their traits as mental conditions and wish them instead to be seen as entirely normal. There is too high an element of subjectivity in these decisions for them to be free from political and other biases, and yet such is the deference to expert culture and such is the decline in educational standards in our age, that people with a very legitimate say in how these traits should be regarded in and by society – in other words the general public – are not consulted and their views are unheard, the political consensus across all the major parties being simply to accept expert opinion unquestioningly. To take a Gove-like stand – to reject expert opinion and instead take a wider view with the good of our young people at the forefront – is seen as far too costly a move.

Between 1988 and 2003 in England and Wales, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986, applying to all maintained schools, provided that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The intention behind this legislation was not to persecute homosexuals, but rather to emphasise the following aspects: that childhood and young adulthood are times when pupils should be free from any form of promotion of homosexuality, and that homosexual relationships are inferior to heterosexual relationships in respect of the upbringing of a family. The background to the legislation was the result of a number of Labour councils, notably the GLC, giving substantial public funding to a number of gay and lesbian groups. Perhaps some of us will remember a book that was reported in 1986 as being in use in a school library called Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, which depicted a young girl living with her father and his homosexual partner and which was held by a number of newspapers to be a work of homosexual propaganda.

Against this background, the Labour Party, at that point strongly controlled by the unions which had formed an alliance with a number of homosexual groups, had passed a resolution at the 1985 conference that would criminalize discrimination against homosexual and bisexual people. During the 1987 election campaign, according to the Conservative Party, Labour wanted a number of books that not only promoted homosexuality but described, in a manner to be understood by young children, the mechanics of homosexual activity, to be used in schools. Dame Jill Knight of the Conservative Party and the Monday Club, one of the leading lights behind Section 28, said “I was contacted by parents who strongly objected to their children at school being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated. To add insult to their injury, they were infuriated that it was their money, paid over as council tax, which was being used for this. This all happened after pressure from the Gay Liberation Front. At that time I took the trouble to refer to their manifesto, which clearly stated: “We fight for something more than reform. We must aim for the abolition of the family”.

So here we are in 2018 and it would appear that the problems of thirty years ago have come back with a vengeance. Of course the tone was set by then-leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron in 2009 when, as reported by The Independent, he apologised for Section 28 and hoped that the Conservatives would give Britain its first gay Prime Minister. Now, we are told that forty secondary schools have banned girls from wearing skirts lest this offend pupils who identify as transgender. Toilets have become either unisex or open to pupils to choose whichever gender they identify with. The government’s former mental health tsar has told headteachers they should only use gender-neutral language when addressing pupils, and at least one school, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, has, despite its name, made this compulsory for its staff. “Drag queen story hour” is now a thing in primary schools. Indeed, since 2011, lesson plans have been available from the Training and Development Agency for Schools in maths, science, geography and design and technology to encourage teaching about homosexuality and transsexualism to children as young as four as part of  “LGBT History Month”. And parents  are being told that if they object to their children identifying as another gender, then they will be reported to Social Services! Truly the movement for the abolition of the family is well advanced.

All of this points to one thing: the calculated and intentional sexualization of our children. A traditional view was that matters of sexuality and gender dysphoria certainly affected young people of school age, and that those young people needed to be treated with understanding and support, but that it was not until a good way into adult life that one could arrive at a maturity of judgement necessary to know oneself and one’s nature fully, and to reconcile that knowledge with one’s chosen moral and cultural framework in terms of how that knowledge would find expression. It is generally forgotten in these debates that people may have instincts and deep emotions which they choose for whatever reason not to act upon, and people may not wish to identify with any particular label or cultural movement that deems itself their spokesperson. The prevailing culture of the aggressive promotion of minority rights is allied to a view that these are not private matters for the home and bedroom and for friends and confidants, but that they are matters of public and political discourse in which any repression is unhealthy and any expression of identification with the trendy cause is to be celebrated and acted upon, even when those actions have unwanted, and in the case of surgery for transsexuals, severe medical consequences. I must say the prospect of gender reassignment for children, even for those before puberty, is of great concern. Nothing makes these people happier, it seems, than when a young person makes a declaration of allegiance to their cause. We may speculate, of course, as to why these particular causes would put so much energy into promoting themselves to children.

If we look back to some examples from the last century, same-sex relationships, often platonic, sometimes not, were commonly reported among young people being educated in single-sex environments, as well as intense emotional feelings towards teachers of the same sex. Consider Evelyn Waugh, who had several homosexual relationships while at Oxford, but in adult life, and according to his biographers entirely as a result of his choice and inclination, married twice and had seven children. People are complex and childhood and young adulthood are times of transition and discovery. People who have homosexual experiences do not always choose to repeat them, and may come to the conclusion that they are not, in fact, to be a part of their mature sexual identity. We should never force our young people into making decisions about their identity and preferences that they may subsequently regret, and that may lead them to much greater anguish and distress than if we were to use that saying from my time, “it’s probably just a phase he’s going through”. Whether or not it actually turns out to be a phase, the point is that it should be allowed to be a phase and not something that defines them permanently in their own view or in the view of others. Once that definition of one’s identity has occurred, something will be lost if it is abandoned. The aim of politicised minority groups is to create a culture whereby those who put themselves outside them, particularly those who might come to oppose them, have a lot to lose as a result.

Of course within the Left’s adoption of postmodernism, such fixed ideas about personal identity are cast aside. The traditionalist understands personal identity to be rooted in one’s racial heritage, genetic stock and a culture which perpetuates enduring values discovered anew by each generation. Traditionalism teaches that childhood and adulthood are different, and that adulthood is characterized by maturity, duty and purpose. Postmodernism, on the other hand, holds that identity is essentially a construct to be adopted or discarded at will. Nothing in the postmodern view of identity endures, and nothing is necessarily preferable to anything else. You may, and some people do, say you are a woman for five days of the week and a man for the other two. And if the Left are in power, they will take you seriously. Because of this weakness concerning identity, this view relegates adults to perpetual children. It teaches that there is no need to grow up, to take responsibility or to assume any form of duty towards others. If one wishes to change one’s identity or cast off responsibility then the state will take up the slack.

We should be clear that what is going on in our schools is effectively the promotion of minority sexual and gender positions, and that this is being done not through any explicit legislation but through a creeping political correctness; a commitment to equality and diversity that actually means that the majority is deliberately hindered and inconvenienced for the sake of the minority. This of course is explicitly Marxist; the majority is held to be the oppressor and the minority cause justified because of its perceived victim status. Even when the apparent victim is deliberately advanced by being given special treatment, that does not mean they can ever stop being seen as the victim or being oppressed. This in turn is allied to the creation of a myth surrounding the supposed utopia of equality and diversity that is being created; that it is under constant threat, and that it can only survive if a safe space is created whereby any expressions of dissent or criticism are censored and designated as “hate speech”. The reality is that the threat is of a rather different nature – it is the threat that the shibboleths of equality and diversity will be shown to be absurd and counter-productive if subjected to rigorous critique. Truly, the emperor has no clothes.

This Marxist viewpoint in turn gives rise to the poison of identity politics and to what has been referred to as grievance studies. It originates in our universities and it runs riot in the humanities and in education. The recent expose by three academics shows this for exactly what it is. They created fake, but achingly trendy, research papers and submitted these to leading peer-reviewed academic journals in the humanities. At the point where the hoax was revealed, they had had seven papers accepted and several further papers likely to be accepted. Among those published were papers suggesting that men should be trained in the same manner as dogs, that white male college students should be punished for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort, and that superintelligent artificial intelligence should be programmed with feminist and leftist nonsense before being permitted to rule the world. Each paper was chosen to be deliberately absurd, and yet its absurdity was merely an exaggeration of a genuine leftist concept.

In their essay explaining their hoax, the three academics make some trenchant comments. I was particularly taken by this, “This problem is most easily summarized as an overarching…belief that many common features of experience and society are socially constructed. These constructions are seen as being nearly entirely dependent upon power dynamics between groups of people, often dictated by sex, race, or sexual or gender identification. All kinds of things accepted as having a basis in reality due to evidence are instead believed to have been created by the intentional and unintentional machinations of powerful groups in order to maintain power over marginalized ones. This worldview produces a moral imperative to dismantle these constructions. Common “social constructions” viewed as intrinsically “problematic” and thus claimed to be in need of dismantling include (amongst others) the understanding that there are cognitive and psychological differences between men and women which could explain, at least partially, why they make different choices in relation to things like work, sex, and family life, and that Western liberal cultural norms which grant women and the LGBT equal rights are ethically superior in this regard to non-Western religious or cultural ones that do not.”

In brief, what they point out is that what is now going on in the humanities is an attempt to replace scientific theory with critical theory in the name of so-called “social justice”. It is an attempt to smear science and the scientific method as sexist and racist and to abandon any impartial pursuit of truth in favour of grievance-based identity politics. Likewise, the Western philosophical tradition is rejected because this also emphasises rigour and reason over solipsism and superstition. We might very well see in this the opposition to Michael Gove’s emphasis on facts and rules over what his opponents wanted instead – “understanding”. Of course what is meant by “understanding” is something much more easily manipulated to political ends than facts and rules. But what is for sure is that this movement against science and rational thought is deeply dishonest. It is concerned with setting up imagined conflict in society that is then used to fire others up with the powerful emotions caused by believing that they are not themselves responsible for their misfortunes but that they can blame them on their sex, gender, race or other protected characteristic. In turn, this is then exploited to take advantage of middle-class liberal guilt, and there is little that is more easily manipulated than that. The peer review system in academia has long been defended as a means of ensuring reliability in research, but at least in the humanities it was always in danger of becoming an echo-chamber filled with ideological conformity.

This is not a problem, however, that is confined to academia. It has a direct influence on society as a whole, because these ideas inevitably leak out and gain wider currency, which is exactly what academics intend them to do – they are, after all, charged with educating the next generation. When we look at television advertising at the moment we might believe that the government had issued the advertising industry with a directive that every advertisement must contain at least one member of an ethnic minority, preferably a couple of mixed race, or a homosexual couple, or people with a visible disability. No such directive exists. Nor has this been in response to particular campaigns by minority groups, or particular complaints about given advertising campaigns.

What has happened is that corporations have realised that their audience is one that is led by these trends that have begun in academia, then been extended through the media, and that now require promotion as politically correct social norms. They are terrified that deviation from those norms will lead to them being accused of being homophobic, racist, transphobic or whatever other made-up term is current with the Left today. They are, indeed, so terrified of this that they will prioritise the avoidance of any perceived bigotry even over appeal to their target audience, thus defeating the prime objective of advertising in the first place. We are told that when surveyed by The Times, half of the advertisers said they were no longer using white people in their adverts because they “no longer represented modern society”. What has happened to the advertisers is the same as what these academics want to do to our young people. They are not responding to actual racism but to “perceived” racism. In other words, they are promoting ideology, not responding to fact. And in doing so, they are perpetuating a monstrous and grievously offensive falsehood, which is that to be white, to be male or female, and to be heterosexual, must be irrevocably racist, homophobic and transphobic, and, while those people must forever do penance for the fact, they can never atone for it.

There is a further aspect to this that might give us all pause for thought. Our schools no longer allow transgressions to be forgotten, as they were in my day, or dismissed as the excesses of youth. Nowadays, every punishment and every failure is recorded permanently in a form that travels with the pupil from childhood through to their university years. This is Orwellian, but moreover it is likely to be a precursor for something much more sinister. Communist China is already introducing a computerised Social Credit System, and this has nothing to do with Major C.H. Douglas or distributist economics. China’s social credit means that every citizen has a computerized publicly-available reputation score based on their credit score and so-called trustworthiness, which is generated from their social behaviour. The Chinese government says violations of the social order will be punished by a lower score. This score is then used, at present, to determine whether a person is allowed access to such things as good school places for their children, travel outside the country, access to credit and even fast internet speeds. One important criterion for China is ideological conformity. If you challenge the prevailing orthodoxy, you lose points on your credit score. What China wants, and I do not think it is so different from the Left over here, is for all of the behaviour of its citizens, online and offline, to be monitored and controlled so that people compete with each other according to indices of virtue. In literal terms, the more you conform to the politically correct ideal, the higher your social credit score becomes, and it is your score that will determine access to almost everything you need in life. In the kind of society that leftist academia in Britain is promoting, violation of the safe space and opposition to social justice will make one into a technologically updated version of the Soviet non-person. This is what the future holds.

What can then be done? The weakness of opposition to these matters is above all seen in a lack of intellectual firepower among those in power and their lack of the necessary courage to challenge so-called experts whose expertise has been gained within an ideological bubble. The humanities and the social sciences have become rotten to the core with this ideological cant. Anyone who speaks out against it is no-platformed and it has become, as Sir Roger Scruton has long pointed out, impossible to pursue a career as a conservative intellectual in this country. The only reason why it has remained a possibility in the United States, incidentally, is because of the strength of traditional Christian institutions within their education system. If we look to the churches to exert a similar influence in this country we will look in vain.

If we are to combat this movement in our schools nothing short of radical action will suffice. It may, indeed, take a boycott of the maintained school system before government takes notice. In the meantime, concerted parental pressure must be applied to ensure that our children are educated in a fit and proper manner, and not subjected to Leftist indoctrination when they are at a formative age. If the headteacher’s day is spent dealing with correspondence and angry representations from parents, and the governors and local education authority with complaints about the school’s lack of action, this will create a problem that will need to be addressed. The only reason this is being imposed upon our schools in this way, is that those imposing it believe they can get away with it. But a school can only work on the basis of consent. It covenants with its pupils and with its parents and it must learn that a necessary part of that covenant is treating their views with respect even when those views are not the same as those of the teaching staff or leadership team. And above all, the political bias in our education system must be countered. Already, we have all but driven men out of primary teaching for fear that they be labelled paedophiles for wanting to work with young children. An all-female school is not a healthy environment for young boys to be educated in. More significantly, it is now near-impossible for people of conservative political views to become teachers or lecturers. There is an ideological conformity imposed not just in training but in practice, and it has already done great damage to the culture of our nation. Unless we have the will and the means to fight it, it will soon be too late.

Private universities in Costa Rica – some observations on legal status and international comparability

According to a newspaper article published in 2012, “Costa Rica’s educational system is continually highlighted as one of the best in Latin America and it continues to produce quality graduates that are rapidly absorbed by private companies and state institutions.” (Tom Rosenberger, “A look at Costa Rica’s University, College, and School System“, Costa Rica Star, 2 May 2012)

Costa Rica is one of a number of Central American countries to have established a relatively large private university sector. As of 2017, the Ministerio de Educación Pública (MEP) included 54 private universities in its list of officially recognized institutions. This compares with a total number of universities in Costa Rica of 64, including 5 public universities and 5 international private universities. It can therefore be seen that the overwhelming majority of Costa Rican universities are private, although the public universities are all large institutions and some of the private universities are small. Since 2000, around 50% of Costa Rican students attend private universities and 50% attend public universities (Source: OECD, “Reviews of National Policies for Education: Education in Costa Rica”, 2017, p.5). Since at least the end of the last century, Costa Rican private universities have also sought to recruit students abroad, targeting both the Hispanic community in the USA and, increasingly, English speaking students seeking to study via distance learning.

Universities in Costa Rica enjoy a high level of autonomy under the Constitution, and this autonomy is more generous for public universities. The public universities are self-governing under the umbrella of the National Council of Rectors (CONARE), which is the principal higher education representative body in Costa Rica. 38 out of the 54 private universities are members of CONARE.

The proposal to permit the official functioning and approval of private universities in Costa Rica was brought forward by CONARE, and given effect by CONARE at its Session on 31 October 1979. By Law No. 6693 of November 27, 1981, published in the Official Gazette, No. 243, dated December 21, 1981, the Consejo Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Universitaria Privada (National Council of Private Higher Education) (CONESUP) was created. Therefore under this law, CONESUP became the statutory government body in charge of regulating and supervising private universities. It is illegal for a private university to operate or enrol students without first having received CONESUP approval. CONESUP’s council includes the Minister of Public Education, and representatives from CONARE, private universities and community colleges, and the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy.

The approval process of a new private university in Costa Rica includes a review of the proposed institution’s facilities, faculty, programmes and establishment, in which the Organic Law of the university (the statutes and regulations by which it exercises its functions) is an important component. CONESUP inspects private universities to ensure that basic standards are maintained. Institutional approval by CONESUP can be suspended or revoked altogether in the event of infringement of its protocols. CONESUP approval is available both to traditional campus-based universities and also to universities that offer education via correspondence or distance learning online. All programmes that are to be offered by a private university in Costa Rica must undergo programmatic approval by CONESUP.

Notwithstanding this, and the strengthening of CONESUP’s authority in 2000 and 2005 respectively, the degree of autonomy extended to private universities in Law No. 6693-81 is still high. Article 8 of that law establishes that “once its operation has been authorized, the private university shall have total liberty to develop its academic activities and curriculum as well as its study plans and programs…” Article 9 of the same body of law determines that “within the terms of this law, the private universities as institutions of superior education shall enjoy total liberty with regard to the curriculum, scientific research and the diffusion of culture…” [Source: Official translation of document from Spanish to English by Dora O. De Guillén, Official Translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, authenticated by stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs].

In 1999, Costa Rica established the Sistema Nacional de Acreditación de la Educación Superior (National System of Accreditation) (SINAES). SINAES is a voluntary accreditation body for both public and private university degree programmes. SINAES accredits only programmes, not institutions. As of 2015, only 12% (140 out of 1,165) of the degree programmes that are offered legally in Costa Rica have been accredited by SINAES, with 9% of private university and 15% of public university programmes being so accredited. In the Costa Rican civil service, preferential treatment is given to holders of SINAES-accredited degrees. Elsewhere, the value of SINAES accreditation is determined by the market, and its low take-up suggests that for the majority of Costa Rican universities and their students, it is not seen as significant.

The degrees that a private university may grant are established in principle under its Organic Law and Regulations which are part of its foundation documents. For example, the Organic Law and Regulations of the Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica, a private university approved by CONESUP since 5 November 1997, states in its first chapter:

“Article 45: The University shall grant the degrees Bachelor, Graduate Degree (Licenciatura), Master, Professional Specialization and Doctor. Article 46: In order to obtain the academic degree of Bachelor, it is required to have passed a minimum of 120 credits and a maximum of 144, for the Graduate Degree 30 to 36 additional credits of those required for the Bachelor’s degree need to have been passed when the career includes such degree. Otherwise, the student must pass a minimum of 150 and a maximum of 180 credits. For the Master’s degree, a minimum of 180 and a maximum of 192 or 60 to 72 additional credits of those required for the Bachelor’s degree must have been passed. For the Doctor’s degree, a minimum of 100 credits and a maximum of 120 additional credits of those required for the Bachelor’s degree need to have been passed. For the Professional Specialization, the necessary credits are not defined but ¡t is required to possess the academic Graduate Degree (Licenciatura).” [Source: Official translation of document from Spanish to English by Dora O. De Guillén, Official Translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, authenticated by stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs].

It is important to clarify that CONESUP’s approval of degree programmes extends only to those programmes which are offered in Costa Rica itself. The question of internationally-offered programmes and those offered in collaboration between private Costa Rican universities and overseas universities was dealt with by CONESUP in its official Circular Number 270-98-CONESUP of April 28, 1998. In that document, CONESUP states “In cases where the academic offer is being developed outside of the national territory CONESUP does not have any authority whatsoever.” [Source: Official translation of document from Spanish to English by Dora O. De Guillén, Official Translator of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Costa Rica, authenticated by stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs]. Therefore such programmes are not eligible for CONESUP programmatic approval. The degrees that result from them are still, however, issued in Costa Rica under the legal authority bestowed on the universities by virtue of their foundation and the law on the granting of degrees.

Comparability considerations

In the majority of countries of the world, government agencies are responsible for the accreditation and approval processes of private higher education providers. Costa Rica conforms to this pattern. The unusual features in the Costa Rican system are firstly that the numerical majority of universities are private rather than public, and secondly that the regulatory system allows a high degree of freedom to all universities, mandating basic standards as compulsory under the law, and offering a further voluntary programmatic accreditation scheme for those who wish to participate in it.

The low take-up of the SINAES scheme even among the public universities means that while a SINAES-accredited degree can be taken to be accredited under a quality scheme that meets international standards, a non-SINAES-accredited degree cannot be dismissed out of hand without dismissing the vast majority of Costa Rican degrees, both public and private. Nor would it be reasonable to refer to non-SINAES-accredited degrees as “unaccredited” in a general sense, since such degrees not only are part of a governmental regulatory framework but are issued in full accordance with Costa Rican law and have full validity as such within that country.

In determining the comparability of such awards, it is necessary to have reference to reliable and established international sources that deal with the recognition of international credentials. One of the most useful of these sources is the European Area of Recognition Manual, published by a consortium consisting of a number of national recognition bodies from European Union member states.

The first question to ask is whether a private Costa Rican university can meet the definition of a recognized institution established by the Manual. This definition is set out as follows:

“Recognition refers to the official status granted by national legislation. Higher education is governed by national legislation in most countries. Laws on higher education lay down the framework for the system as a whole, stipulate general criteria that have to be met, define policies and procedures that should be in place and bestow official, degree-granting authority on institutions, both public and private. Institutions that fulfil the requirements set in national legislation and have official degree-granting authority are considered to be recognised, though a different term may be used.” (p.21)

In Costa Rica, private universities are granted official status by national legislation. CONESUP as a mandated government body under such national legislation approves private universities and bestows official degree-granting authority through this act of approval. Therefore, a private Costa Rican university meets the definition of a recognized institution.

Next, we should consider the more complex matter of whether such institutions can be considered both recognized and accredited. Here the Manual states the following:

Recognition/accreditation of an institution and recognition/accreditation of a programme.

Generally qualifications awarded by recognised institutions are considered to be recognised. However, in some countries recognition/accreditation of a programme is separate from the recognition/accreditation of an institution. In other words, it is possible for recognised institutions to offer programmes that are not officially recognised and for non-recognised institutions to offer recognised programmes.” (ibid.)

We have established that Costa Rican private universities are recognized institutions, and therefore the presumption in the first sentence above applies, that “qualifications awarded by recognised institutions are considered to be recognised”. Notwithstanding this, we should also consider the rest of the paragraph. It is not possible for institutions that are not officially recognized to offer recognized programmes in Costa Rica, and therefore this provision does not apply. But programmatic accreditation does exist in Costa Rica. In the case of private university programmes offered within Costa Rican territory, this takes the form of compulsory approval by CONESUP either with or without additional voluntary accreditation by SINAES. For such programmes offered outside Costa Rican territory, the option of programmatic approval/accreditation is not available.

In order to interpret this correctly, we should consider the matter in context. The legal status of the degree awarded is exactly the same, whether it is accredited by SINAES or not, and whether (for private institutions) the programme is internally delivered and thus CONESUP-approved, or externally delivered and thus ineligible for CONESUP approval. All are Costa Rican degrees issued by government-recognized universities.

Moreover, degrees issued by Costa Rican public universities that are not accredited by SINAES are routinely considered to be equivalent to accredited degrees from other countries; indeed, as the article quoted in our opening paragraph maintains, Costa Rica’s system of education is “continually highlighted as one of the best in Latin America”. And the Manual states, “No distinction should be made between qualifications or periods of study earned at private versus public institutions, as long as the private institution is recognised and/or accredited by competent authorities.” (p. 22).

The Manual offers an example of how to treat a degree from an institution that is recognized but where there is no accreditation system implemented. Note that while SINAES is extant in Costa Rica, its purely voluntary nature means that it is not “implemented” in the sense the Manual uses that term, since it defines accreditation as effectively a compulsory process (p. 21).

Example 2

An applicant seeks recognition of his master degree in law. This qualification was awarded by a recognised higher education institution listed on the website of the Ministry of Education. Since an accreditation system was not implemented in the country where the degree was obtained, neither the institution nor the programme was accredited. Both the institution and the programme were established in line with the national legislation on higher education. In this case the competent recognition authority should trust that the awarded qualification represents an accepted level of education and recognise it accordingly.” (p. 22)

Therefore, the basis of recognition in this case should be the recognized status of the university, where both institutions and programmes are established in line with the national legislation on higher education. That will be the case with all Costa Rican university degrees, both public and private, that are awarded by recognized universities.

Having established that such awards are recognized, the exact equivalency of any award will then depend upon a precise analysis, and the comparison of its requirements and contents to recognized awards in the system of education to which comparability is sought.

Key Sources


Previously, this article stated that all Costa Rican universities were listed in the International Association of Universities/UNESCO World Higher Education Handbook (now Database). This was the case up to mid-2021, when the policy of that database changed to include only SINAES-accredited institutions. As of December 2021, this has created a significant anomaly, whereby a number of private institutions are authorized by CONESUP to operate as universities (and are listed as such on the CONESUP website) but have been delisted by the Database regardless of their legal status as government-authorized universities and the still-voluntary nature of SINAES accreditation. It is difficult to see the change in policy in respect of the Database as other than politically-motivated.

My education: Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica

The Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica (Business University of Costa Rica) is a fully accredited private university in Costa Rica.

For some general remarks on Costa Rican private universities, their legal context and international comparability, please see this article.

The University was founded in 1992 as the International Postgraduate School and has been continuously accredited by the Consejo Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Universitaria Privada (CONESUP) of the Ministry of Education, Costa Rica, since 5 November 1997. An officially certified and Apostilled copy of the complete listing of private universities accredited by CONESUP as of 2017, including the Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica, can be downloaded here:

>>Officially certified list of CONESUP-accredited private universities (April 2017).pdf

As of 2020, the University was listed in the International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Handbook of Universities and World Higher Education Database. The University was a member of the International Association of Universities with IAU ID number IAU-017738.

>>Listing and profile of UNEM in the International Association of Universities International Handbook of Universities, 18th Edition. The profile includes a description of the University’s facilities and the programs offered.

>>International Association of Universities World Higher Education Database website, searchable by IAU ID number

 The University has for many years combined offering programs to Costa Rican citizens with a thriving International Program which makes its degree programs available to Spanish-speaking citizens worldwide. The University has delivered programs by distance learning for many years but has also maintained campus facilities in San José, most recently at C

In 2009, the university which I co-founded and head today, European-American University, established a relationship of academic collaboration and subsequently validation with the Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica, which continues at the time of writing. As such, I was offered the opportunity to become a candidate for a degree on the same terms as other members of the faculty. Accordingly, I was a candidate for the degree of Maestria en Administracion de Empresas (Master of Business Administration) by distance learning, which was awarded on 15 January 2010. My program comprised 14 courses and 42 credits, including an emphasis in entrepreneurship.

In addition, I was a candidate for a further Doctorado en Humanidades (PhD in Humanities) with emphasis in History. For this degree, I submitted a thesis on the British Old Catholic bishop Arnold Harris Mathew (1852-1919) that was subsequently published as a book. My thesis was prepared with the benefit of the guidance of Professor Bertil Persson and access to several important private archives, including material from the Liberal Catholic Church. It has since been cited in the doctoral theses of others writing on Old Catholicism.

In 2014, I was appointed to a Full Professorship in Education in the International Program of UNEM, as confirmed by the following letter, and continue to hold this position at the time of writing.

Ceremonies in London and Oxford

During April 2011, ceremonies took place for visiting doctoral graduates of the joint EAU – Oxford Centre for Leadership (OXCELL) program in Oxford and London. The graduates from Malaysia and Indonesia enjoyed a full program of events culminating in evening events in Oxford and afternoon tea (amid unusually fine weather) at the Royal Over-Seas League in London.

The ceremonies have been reported in the national press in Malaysia, including the following article (click to enlarge):

Christianity and Esotericism

Christianity & Esotericism
Markus van Alphen
Introduction by John Kersey

Articles on the subject of esoteric Christianity by Markus van Alphen, Founding Bishop of The Young Rite, with an introduction by me.

“Bishop Markus van Alphen offers an accessible and informed introduction to the means by which esoteric Christians approach their faith and the questions it raises. This is above all a book that shows something of the patterns in the Christian life that become the warp and weft of esoteric interpretation. Those for whom this is new and strange will find their perceptions challenged, while those already embarked upon their voyage into occult ways will find plentiful illumination on offer from an experienced and gifted guide.”
(from the Introduction)

Purchase a copy from Inspiration Press.

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.

My education: Universidad San Juan de la Cruz, Costa Rica

The Universidad San Juan de la Cruz (University of St John of the Cross or USJDLC) is a fully accredited private university in Costa Rica.

For some general remarks on Costa Rican private universities, their legal context and international comparability, please see this article.

The University has been continuously accredited by the Consejo Nacional de Enseñanza Superior Universitaria Privada (CONESUP) of the Ministry of Education, Costa Rica, since 20 May 1996. An officially certified and Apostilled copy of the complete listing of private universities accredited by CONESUP as of 2017, including the Universidad San Juan de la Cruz, can be downloaded here:

>>Officially certified list of CONESUP-accredited private universities (April 2017).pdf

As of 2015, the University was listed in the International Association of Universities/UNESCO International Handbook of Universities:

>>International Handbook of Universities listing (2015 edition)

The University has graduated over 8,000 students since its inception, the majority of whom are of Costa Rican nationality. The University specializes in programs aimed at working adults who wish to study in a classroom setting, by distance learning, or by mixing the two study modes.

Class in progress of the Universidad San Juan de la Cruz

The University has maintained various teaching campus centres over the years. At the time of writing, the campus is at Guachipelín de Edificio VMG, Piso 1, San José Province, Escazu, Costa Rica. Most of the offered degree programs are at Bachiller, Licenciatura and Maestria levels with the key areas being Law, Business Administration and Public Accounting.

In 2009, the university which I co-founded and head today, European-American University, established a relationship of academic collaboration and subsequently validation with the Universidad San Juan de la Cruz, which continues at the time of writing. As such, I was offered the opportunity to become a candidate for a degree on the same terms as other members of the faculty. Accordingly, I was a candidate for the degree of Doctorado en Humanidades (PhD in Humanities) in 2009. At the time of my candidacy, the President of the University was Fernando Trejas Castro and the Secretary was Juan Pedro Chavarria Otárola. The University agreed to award the degree by incorporation of my previously-earned French PhD.

Together with my doctoral certificate, the University issued me with a certified statement of its status as an accredited institution from CONESUP, signed by the Executive Director of that body, Ms Evelyn Chen Quesada.

Saint Regis University, Liberia – How the U.S. government destroyed a progressive online school that was seen as a threat to its academic establishment

The case of Saint Regis University (SRU), an online distance-learning school which between 2002 and 2004 held recognition by the government of Liberia, is uniquely complex and problematic in the study of transnational education and the questions of legitimacy and authority that it raises.

SRU was a radical and iconoclastic interloper in the higher education establishment. It was established by the owners of a successful trade school and brought the direct, no-nonsense approach of a trade school to the university sector. It did not so much challenge academia as threaten to destabilize it altogether. In the middle-class circles of university education, SRU was a blue-collar outsider not inclined to mind its manners. SRU was hugely successful, with many satisfied graduates, and made millions of dollars. It also made some extremely powerful enemies, determined not only to close it down but to demonize everything it had stood for.

In 2004, SRU found itself denounced by its opponents as a diploma mill in US Congressional hearings, with no right of reply and no attempt at a balanced presentation. Subsequently, the United States government let it be known to the Liberian Ministry of Education that if it did not withdraw support for SRU, US funding to the Ministry might be withdrawn. Mired in legal troubles. SRU closed in late 2004. Then, in 2005, criminal charges were filed against eight US citizens involved in the operation of SRU. All eight subsequently pleaded guilty, thus meaning that no trial took place and many of the most significant arguments surrounding the case were not tested in court.

There remain troubling questions about the role of the US government in the whole saga. The case itself raises serious issues of bias and due process. Its conclusions have also been subject to a great deal of politicization, both by the media and by the education establishment.

In the discussion below, I intend to tell the story of SRU, focussing on the following issues:

  1. What was SRU’s educational methodology?
  2. Was the claim by SRU that it held accreditation from the government of Liberia true, and if so, what did this accreditation mean?
  3. If the accreditation claim was true and meaningful, to what extent were degrees issued by SRU (a) legal and (b) legitimate?
  4. In the light of the above, what approach should be taken towards the many individuals who obtained degrees from SRU?

1. The birth of a revolutionary idea

The principals behind SRU were a married couple called Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock from Spokane, Washington. Before starting SRU, Dixie Randock had started and grown a real estate school to a position of significant success. She was smart, ambitious, single-minded and dedicated to making SRU a revolution in online schools. She was the educational mastermind behind what would become SRU, while Steve Randock handled the finances.

Dixie recalls,

I attended college quite a few years and was a very successful real estate broker with multiple offices and member of Spokane Club, Country Club, etc. My husband and I were millionaires long before ever starting SRU, had very successful businesses and exceptional reputations.

It was after we were embezzled [by their former accountant, who went to jail as a result] that I began putting together SRU, even though I had thought about it for a few years prior. The embezzlement of what police said was $600,000+ (actually much more) caused me to close my brokerages in WA and ID, although I kept the real estate/law school open. I had written all the State approved texts and courses for these schools myself, which are still in use in the school and other colleges to this day.

In 1999, Dixie had branched out and become the proprietor of This offered degree programmes by using life experience credit. It asserted, “Our Evaluation & Endorsement Advisors evaluate and match your life experience with traditional college curriculums to provide you a wide variety of 100% verifiable degrees, certifications, credentials, designations and awards for “self-made” and “self-taught” experts in all fields. No classes or attendance is required, because this is NOT a school. Unlike school programs, The Evaluation & Endorsement Program is an evaluation process, which  is done by only a few specialized organizations.”

The Evaluation and Endorsement Program used a concept described as “peer evaluation”, conducted by a “peer advisory” and administered by the Evaluation & Endorsement Peer Advisory Trust. By 2001, the evaluation body had developed into the Advanced Education Institute Trust (AEIT). The peer advisory idea was radical, for it suggested that rather than assessment being conducted by individuals of higher status than the candidate (as in traditional academia), it would actually be conducted by peers of similar status. Cohort or peer assessment had precedent in short-residency non-traditional mainstream programmes such as the University of Phoenix, and also at the Union Institute, whose doctoral committees were composed not only of mentors but also of peers. The Trust said of its process,

Our clients describe accreditation by their peers as the ultimate validation of their own knowledge and achievements, and their credentials as extremely valuable and proven in enhancing personal careers, gaining confidence to increase earning potential, improving self esteem, and heightening recognition, respect and appreciation by others.

Clearly, peer evaluation was a radical and nontraditional statement of educational philosophy – effectively asserting that any person who had received the proper training could be competent to recognize educational achievement gained through life experience and to map it to a degree curriculum. It also avoided some obvious problems in recruiting faculty. The faculty and doctoral graduates of mainstream universities were unlikely to have specialist expertise in experiential credit assessment or to be sympathetic to its revolutionary implications, rendering them unsuitable for appointment. Dixie said,

I researched the many ways available to earn college credits through an evaluation process of experience, self-study, independent studies and research, etc. I collected and studied the processes (e.g.; x years practical experience equaled x credits) and began creating a sort of matrix for our advisors to use that closely matched US and European universities.

Although not all our advisors held mainstream degrees, they did understand the equivalency matrix and also had access to sources when the credit might be given for research, dissertations, other papers, or independent studies.

The Trust made it quite clear that what was being offered was a non-traditional challenge to the mainstream.

This is a unique process, established for deserving individuals who for one reason or another did not obtain a degree in the traditional fashion.

Even the most stringent educators are coming to the realization that in today’s information age, an individual can reach and surpass college graduate levels of knowledge without ever stepping inside a “brick and mortar” classroom.

Many talented, intelligent, and creative individuals have attained more education than a college graduate by self-teaching, and learning through their own research, practice and work experience.

It is common knowledge that many of our world’s most innovative pioneers in technology, science, and practices belong to this group of individuals.

However, most universities arrogantly insist that you can ONLY attain a degree level education by enrolling, paying and attending a college for years.

Perhaps this thinking is meant to prevent a perceived conflict of the school’s own best interest, in that granting a degree to a self-educated person may take away tuition that might have otherwise been paid to the school.

Initially, awards said on the diploma that they were not degrees, and that the Evaluation & Endorsement Peer Advisory Trust was “a process, not a school”. Nevertheless, the market was looking for a product that would fit into the mainstream of credentials, and that meant awards that were described as degrees and, if they were not actually to be issued by schools, at least used names that were similar to schools. As of 2000, the website stated,

These are NOT schools, and they should not be confused with the names of any University. Please let us know which Peer Advisory Program name you prefer. You may choose from any of the Peer Advisory Programs:

Holy Acclaim University, Saint Lourdes University, Holmes University, Cathedra University, Audentes Technical College, Concorda Graduate Institute, Saint Concordia University or  Valorem University.

Peer Advisories are assembled into groups of individuals who are considered to be experts in their subject  areas.

These lines came to be further blurred, however. A year later, the same section read:

You may choose from many established Peer Advisory names, or you may choose a Custom Name.  A custom name is any name that you choose or create and is not in use by an existing, accredited university or one that would infringe upon registered trademarks, symbols, etc. [A link was provided to unavailable names that were members of the Collegiate Licensing Company]

To view a list of names that AVAILABLE names that are no longer used, and are available, click the link for a  list of Closed Universities & Colleges.

 It must be stressed that the Academic Peer Advisories use words including “college”, “university”, “academy” etc., not as nouns, but as the lexis in their descriptive titles. The names are titles of Academic Peer Advisories, NOT schools. The programs do not offer courses or classes and are not for those who are beginning or continuing their academic education.

Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, this justification was too subtle a distinction to be grasped by most consumers. Documents that were the result of the peer advisory process continued to bear the seal of the Trust, and were worded so as to state that it was the awarding body, but started also to bear the names of genuine schools when these were chosen as Academic Peer Advisories. Moreover, they could be verified by the official verification centre (also maintained by AEIT) in whatever institution’s name was on the certificate.

While this might be ethically problematic, it was not a legal difficulty – at least not for AEIT as the issuing body, since there was no law against doing this in either Washington or Idaho. The documents from AEIT presented as exhibits in the SRU case are not similar to those provided by “replacement diploma” or “fake diploma” services that mimic the look and the signatures that appear on actual diplomas issued by the schools in question. Rather, they all use an identical and distinctive typeface and format. They bear the AEIT seal and state that the awarding body is “The Regents of the Evaluation and Endorsement Advisory and the President and Chief Provost” Other wording states, “Be it known that knowledge and proficiency has been demonstrated by completing and satisfying all requirements of the Regents of the Evaluation and Endorsement Advisory”. One transcript using the peer advisory name of “University of Maryland” gives Dominica as its address. The documents might well have produced confusion, but a straightforward reading would be unlikely to give the impression that they had been created to deceive.

At AEIT, as would be the case at SRU, each candidate was assigned an advisor for the duration of their programme. These peer advisors carried out assessment of the candidates and assigned credit to them. They had all received a full training programme and were equipped with a kit consisting of hundreds of electronic letters that were scripted responses to likely enquiries. Where an issue arose that they could not handle themselves, they would pass this on to senior management.

Peer advisory degrees could be backdated. The rationale was that if the applicant was qualifying on the basis of their experience, then their degree would logically have been earned at the point in time when that experience had reached the level required by their degree, rather than at the point when it was presented for credentialling,

Your degrees and transcripts will be dated as closely as possible to the time that you attained your education.

For example, if you reached a Bachelor Degree level education (without attending classes) by 1996, we recommend that your degree be dated no earlier than 1996. Then, if you attained a Master Degree level education by 1998, your degree should be dated 1998 or later, and so forth as your education level increased up to a Doctorate level.

The peer advisories allocated experiential credit by creating formal transcripts listing coursework that, according to them, were comparable to the applicant’s experience. These transcripts were based on the standard degree curriculums of mainstream universities. The final result did not indicate that credit had been earned through experiential assessment, and simply gave a list of courses, credits, grades and a grade point average.

Transcripting experiential credit in this way was in keeping with the practice of several mainstream schools that granted credit for experiential learning. For example, Charter Oak State College in Connecticut (, a regionally accredited US institution, had at that time (and still has today) a bachelor’s degree programme in which it is possible to submit a portfolio of experiential learning credit to challenge a wide variety of courses that would otherwise be completed via examination or coursework.

In addition, applicants could transfer credit into the AEIT programme from other universities, which was permitted without limits on the age or amount of credit that could be transferred in. Many other institutions place artificial limits on credit transfer in order to compel the student to take a minimum number of credit-bearing courses with their school, irrespective of whether such a learning experience is academically necessary from the student’s perspective.

As was explained,

…you will receive transcripts for each degree, showing representative courses that correspond to your experience as compared to a traditional classroom setting. The transcripts show a traditional curriculum of courses that are the equivalent of the skills you have acquired as though you attended. There is no mention of “equivalency”. The dates and grades and grade point average will appear.

An enormous amount of research and labor is required for each individual transcript. Transcripts are carefully compiled to match the candidate’s qualifications and education.

Based on the educational information and description of experience supplied by the candidate, the peer advisory can determine if the candidate’s knowledge level is on par, or exceeds that of a college graduate.

When the advisors are not provided with certain information, or if the candidate cannot provide information concerning former grades or other documentation, the advisory will make their judgment based on the available data and their own research.

When the candidate does not provide grades, the advisory may also make their own recommendations as to grades in each course, based on whatever information the candidate has provided.

There was also significant input from the candidate, who was expected to self-evaluate as part of the process:

…we always provide the candidate with a “proof” of the transcript and other documents, before original documents are produced.

When your “proof” is emailed to you for your approval, you may request changes to ensure accuracy. You may also submit your grades and other documentation at the same time of your acceptance.

We welcome and encourage your participation in the selection of representative courses that best fit your skill levels, as well as your overall and specific grades.

Your original transcript will not be completed until you are completely satisfied and have given final approval.

If you feel that certain courses (or degrees) do not fit your skill level, please let us know.

Your peers will review your data and based upon the certain criteria, they may either replace courses with those you recommend, or our advisors will research other representative courses (or degrees) to better match your circumstances.

 If you wish for the advisory to modify or replace courses, please and identify the courses and provide additional as to your strengths.

Self-evaluation is again a concept encountered in non-traditional education, usually as part of a philosophy of democratization and a critique of educational hierarchy. To do this outside of a school setting is reasonably widespread. To do it as part of a process leading to the award of a degree would be an open challenge to traditional academia.

2. St Regis becomes a Liberian university

The success of AEIT made it clear that there was significant demand for experience-based credentials from a school that was real and verifiable. The next step would be to create a legitimate online university targeting working adults and offering degrees at all levels via an accelerated experiential assessment at low cost, and Saint Regis University was designed specifically for this purpose. As of 2001, SRU was one of the AEIT peer advisory names that could be used on peer advisory degrees. Later that year, it developed an independent life of its own. While its website did not include much of the information about the peer advisory process that had appeared at AEIT, the concepts and methodology were the same.

Institutions that award college credit based on the assessment of experience gained outside a formal classroom setting (referred to as the accreditation of prior learning (APEL) or prior learning assessment (PLA)) are engaged in the most revolutionary aspect of non-traditional education. College credit for experiential learning democratizes education by changing the role of the university from education provider to education assessor. It is this process, when used by schools outside the mainstream, that is most vociferously attacked by mainstream advocates, because it poses the greatest threat to the mainstream. It offers the prospect of radically cutting the duration, resources and cost of degree programmes in many areas for experienced adults, and when allied to distance learning methodologies, can potentially be expanded to meet an international market. In a key example of disruptive innovation, the non-traditional movement pioneered experiential credit as early as the nineteenth-century. Gradually, the mainstream took on elements of APEL, though still with obvious resistance to the ideology, and in a patchy manner that has left areas such as graduate-level credit poorly served. That particular market niche then became a focus for a number of non-traditional schools working outside the mainstream.

There had been “assessment universities” before SRU. One of the leading examples was the former Summit University of Louisiana under the late Raymond Chasse. Summit was a genuinely alternative distance learning school operating outside the accredited sector. At Summit,  experiential learning received full credit and adult learners were placed in charge of their degree programs. Summit in turn was an extension of the University without Walls project that had begun in California in 1974 under the late Melvin Maier Suhd. Eventually, Summit and most similar schools were driven out by legislative changes. Even with the significant respect in which Suhd was held as an educational theorist and humanitarian thinker, Summit had faced constant battles with the education establishment and the lawmakers who were protecting that establishment. What they did was considered not to look like a university, nor to behave like one. It was determinedly alternative and challenging, in an area that promotes conformity – through the standardization process that is accreditation – and fears substantive change.

Ray Chasse also founded a very similar school to Summit called American Coastline University, and ran the two in parallel from his home in Louisiana. While Summit closed, American Coastline survived for a time after Chasse’s death.

When SRU first appeared online in late 2001, it asserted that it was chartered in the Commonwealth of Dominica and also derived authority from being a branch campus of the International University of Fundamental Studies in Russia (as did American Coastline University). It also cited a number of accreditations from private bodies (which did not hold government recognition) which also accredited American Coastline University. Dr Richard J. Hoyer of American Coastline University served in an uncompensated role as Provost of SRU between February and October 2002.

While its Dominican corporation would be maintained behind the scenes, this period, however, was to be brief. Clearly, it was impossible for SRU to become accredited by the conservative accrediting associations in the USA, which were extremely hostile to experiential credit for degrees. The question was then, what would be an acceptable foreign alternative? Accreditation by a national government was held by key authorities in the USA – foreign credential evaluators – to be the equivalent of recognized US accreditation. Well-known distance education author John Bear had devised the concept of GAAP – generally recognized accreditation principles – and said that for non-US schools, this meant, “recognized by (or more commonly a part of) the relevant national education agency”. Moreover, “schools the agency accredits are routinely listed in one or more of the following publications: the International Handbook of Universities (a UNESCO publication), the Commonwealth Universities’ Yearbook, the World Education Series (published by PIER), or the Country Series (published by NOOSR in Australia).”(1)

The search was therefore on for a national government that would be prepared to support SRU and grant it accreditation. Dixie said of this,

“I chose Liberia, for many reasons, one of course because they are English speaking, their constitution was very close to our US constitution, many laws are similar, and I had an idea they may be open minded as to how any person may earn a degree. It may be that many Liberians are uneducated, but there were and still are many highly intelligent people with drive and ambition, whose actual education levels are on par with those in the US and other countries with college degrees. But, these people had little to no chance of ever moving up without any documentation or evaluation of their knowledge.”

Other American non-traditional providers had also sought a home in Africa. At one time the largest non-traditional distance learning university in the USA had been Columbia Pacific University of California, which was closed in that state in what many saw as a politically motivated process. A successor institution, Columbia Commonwealth University, had sought and gained accreditation from the African nation of Malawi in 2001, and continued to offer programmes to American students on the basis of this status. Another non-traditional distance learning university offering programmes to an American as well as international base, Adam Smith University, had been established by an act of the legislature in Liberia in 1995.

On 12 June 2002, the National Board of Education, Inc., was incorporated as a non-resident domestic corporation in Liberia with its registered address as 80, Broad Street, Monrovia. The directors were listed as F. Derradji, C. Dreyer and M. Fuchs, all of the aforementioned address, with Derradji the sole shareholder. This corporation was to be the legal owner of SRU in Liberia.

Around September 2002, all mention of Russia and Dominica was removed from the SRU website and it was asserted that SRU was chartered and accredited by the government of Liberia. Specifically, the following claim was made:

“St. Regis University was originally Chartered January 10, 1984, Created by Decree of the People’s Redemption Council Government of Liberia, as a private school with a physical campus. In 1998, St. Regis University closed the physical campus and moved to a virtual location to better serve students by offering affordable programs without sacrificing quality, and began a four year accreditation process toward formal recognition.

(Prior to 1998 no process existed for the accreditation of online universities.)

On August 28, 2002, St. Regis University completed all accreditation requirements and received formal recognition by the Higher Education Commission of the Education Ministry of Liberia as a legal, valid and authentic university, operating under the authority and in conformity with all current laws and regulations ruling educational competency certification of the Republic of Liberia. The Higher Education Commission of the Education Ministry of Liberia   is solely responsible for granting recognition to post-secondary education institutions in Liberia including St. Regis University, University of Liberia and Cuttington University College…

St. Regis places less emphasis on “systems” and more emphasis on “outcomes”.

St. Regis University has submitted documentation of degree programs, descriptions of course/course equivalency completion, curriculum, catalog, assessment manual, policies and all required criteria meeting the very high standards required to gain recognition by the Education Ministry of Liberia.”

(Source: as retrieved on 2 December 2003)

What had happened was that the NBOE had purchased a semi-defunct school in Liberia and renamed it St Regis University. According to Dixie,

The Liberian government was eager to work with us, and it was they who recommended that we buy an existing accredited school (accredited in 1984) to become established.

The school was in Monrovia, the same building as the Liberia Department of Education, and had a small staff and phone system, but because of the ongoing war, there were no longer any students or teachers. But our intention was never to teach, but to offer online equivalency programs. So, we agreed to keep the small staff and equipped it with computers/servers, filing system and used the school in the beginning, as a base. They told us we could change the name, which we did, paid all back fees and taxes owing plus accreditation transfer, keeping the original accreditation date.

Aside from all the other costs, the accreditation for SRU had cost a mere US$300. The school had originally been named after James Monroe and was owned by the mother of one of the Liberian officials, possibly Dr Lawrence Bestman. Before long, the Randocks bought a second school, named after Joseph Jenkins Roberts, which had been accredited in 1982. The Liberian Ministry of Education suggested that this should be renamed Robertstown University.

It was news to many that SRU had had any existence in Liberia in the 1980s (albeit under a different name) before it first appeared on the Internet as a Dominican entity in 2001. However, even SRU’s harshest critics acknowledged that this was the case at that time.

“George Gollin, a professor of physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has researched Saint Regis University and “diploma mills” like it. Despite its claims to Liberia, he says the school is based in the United States, and has a network of more than 100 Web sites. “These were real schools in Liberia, but they folded in the ’80s,” Gollin said.”(2)

In support of the accreditation, a number of documents were made available to enquirers. The first of these was an accreditation certificate issued by the Liberian Ministry of Education to the National Board of Education, Inc., as operator of SRU, and signed by two officials, supplemented by a document giving further particulars.

A further, similarly worded certificate would follow, signed by Dr Lawrence Saydee Bestman, the Executive Director of the National Commission of Higher Education of Liberia:

The motto adopted by the Minister of Education was “Accelerated Education for Accelerated Development”. This would exemplify the synergy between SRU and the Liberian government. As it emerged from the destruction of civil war, Liberia saw there was an urgent need to expand its higher education sector and to embrace new technologies such as distance learning and experiential assessment in order not only to meet its domestic needs but to compete internationally.

Before long, SRU acquired an official suffix, and its main website became The domain was restricted to institutions with official standing as a recognized Liberian educational entity.

Gaining recognized accreditation transformed SRU. Its initial home in Dominica had offered legality, but not the acceptance that would come with government accreditation. Liberia offered membership of the cartel of accredited institutions, and a route into the acceptance that came with being part of the academic mainstream. It was a step that few other experience-based universities had previously made.

In addition, there was a market for a whole range of ancillary services. During the 2002-05 period, the Randocks not only operated SRU but a vast range of other websites, not only of other online universities but offering accreditation (through the National Board of Education, SRU’s parent body – this was available for $50,000), turnkey online universities for entrepreneurs, apostilles, an association and journal for online universities, credential evaluation and degree verification services.

Student enquiries started to pour in from around the world. Suddenly, what had been a small-scale family-run enterprise was making millions of dollars. The Randocks were unapologetic about making money. They marketed SRU with great energy and complete confidence. However, there was more to SRU than simply the drive to profit. Its success was because it was meeting market need head-on, and in doing this it was also serving to promote experiential and non-traditional education to those who would not previously have considered them.

Because so many requests for verification of SRU’s accreditation were being directed to the Liberian government, SRU made arrangements with members of the Liberian diplomatic corps and Ministry of Education staff whereby they would be paid a retainer in order to answer questions and verify the accreditation when needed.

On 13 September 2002, some two weeks after the accreditation documents were issued, Liberia’s National Commission on Higher Education published a National Policy on Higher Education:

>>National Policy on Higher Education in the Republic of Liberia (13 September 2002)

The National Policy defined the process for creating new universities thus:

The National legislature has the statutory authority for chartering institutions of higher learning only following recommendation from the National Commission of Higher Education.

The process for accreditation was described as follows:

The National Commission of Higher Education will evaluate the missions, objectives, academic programs, physical resources, finances and qualifications of administrative and instructional staff of an institution of higher learning and subsequently accredit the same. Physical resources will include campuses, classrooms and office furniture, libraries. adequate and relevant books, instructional material, laboratory equipment, conductive working environment, safe drinking water, electricity aid sanitary facilities. Evidence of accreditation will be the issuance of a certificate of accreditation by the National Commission of Higher Education or use of another official instrument by the Commission to be considered a legal document of permission to operate.

Further provisions of the National Policy dealt with financing, curriculum and the other expected aspects of tertiary accreditation. It certainly gave a clear impression that Liberian accreditation involved the operation of meaningful standards and was not merely a rubber stamp. However, SRU had been accredited just before the issuance of the National Policy.

3. SRU’s educational processes

SRU offered several routes to a degree. As of 2003, these were listed as “assessment of knowledge; “testing out” (summative examinations); Independent Study – Thesis Research; Transfer of Credit; Coursework”. A number of alumni dissertations and theses were placed online; these included some accomplished work as well as some that would admittedly have been unlikely to have met the standards of a recognized US university. Some graduates were also known to have completed a coursework route to a degree.

The majority of degrees, however, were awarded by assessment of the applicant’s prior education and experiential learning. Up to 100% of a degree could be earned through the submission of prior learning and experience, including at the masters and doctoral levels. These processes were explained at length on the website with examples of the conversion of experience to college credit.

This was followed by a series of detailed breakdowns for a number of common degree programmes.

Concerning what was required of the applicant, SRU said,

These are general principles for conducting assessment.

Apply online for a FREE Evaluation Include your resume/CV and references.

It is rare, but occasionally applicants qualify using through assessment alone (Pre-Approval). But, more often additional credit is required which can be earned through instructions/guidelines provided by the Assigned Professor. (Conditional Approval).

Applicants will be emailed a notice of either Pre-Approval or Conditional Approval. If the applicant receives Pre-Approval he/she will be give directions for acceptance and payment of graduation fees.

If the applicant receives a Conditional Approval, he/she will also receive details about the ways to proceed to meet the desired degree graduation requirements.

The applicant’s evaluation results, resume/CV will be assessed and validated by the assigned Professors and an evaluation results report will be emailed.

Once the applicant has received the required credits for graduation, he/she may accept the degree by paying the proper graduation fee.

If the applicant’s scores and assessment do not meet the number of credits required, his/her assigned Professors will suggest courses, alternative learning sources and/or supplemental submissions to complete the graduation requirements.


Send us your resume, CV, thesis, and description of your skills and experiences for a FREE EVALUATION. Your appointed advisor will compare your knowledge to levels of education required in traditional college curriculums.

The application form allowed the applicant to submit a resume, but in addition they were asked in a section allowing for free-form text (which could be added to by email if needed) to,

Please describe your life and work experience, and/or qualifications, and/or other education you have acquired, and/or any other justification you feel is important and should be considered by your advisor in your evaluation for credit.

Two references were also required. One notable omission was that there was no attempt to verify the identity of the applicant through examining official identity documents. This would prove a costly error in the light of subsequent events.

SRU’s failure was not in its willingness to promote experiential college credit or boldly to proclaim it the direct equivalent of a traditional curriculum. That process won it friends and supporters, including me, among those who favoured that methodology and who wanted to see it furthered, as well as enemies among those who wished to see it curtailed. Too often, the attacks made on SRU graduates were the result of envy and resentment from those who were unshakeably wedded to the time-serving vision of university education, and could not accept that someone might have gained experience that was judged to be the equivalent of many hours of classroom instruction. For them, it was “unfair” that SRU graduates had qualified for degrees by APEL assessment rather than doing college “the hard way”. They privileged processes over outcomes, and their outrage was easily manipulated by the media and opponents of SRU.

3. Recognized American academic authorities that accepted SRU

When some enquirers made contact with SRU from mid-2003 onwards, they were given a file of documents that indicated wide acceptance of SRU in the United States academic community. Firstly, there was a series of letters and faxes from accredited United States and Canadian universities. Secondly, there was a series of evaluations from foreign credential evaluators in the United States.

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Vanguard University, California

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by the University of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Tufts University, Massachusetts

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Northern State University, South Dakota

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Lasell College, Massachusetts

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Florida Metropolitan University

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Eastern New Mexico University

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Emerson College, Massachusetts

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by Concordia University, Wisconsin

Acceptance of an SRU degree for graduate study by the Canadian School of Management, Ontario

Foreign credential evaluation of SRU degree by SDR Educational Consultants

Foreign credential evaluation of SRU degree by Lincoln International Educational Associates. It is not clear how they determined that SRU was founded in 1947!

Foreign credential evaluation of SRU degree by Foreign Consultants, Inc.

Foreign credential evaluation of SRU degree by AUAP Credential Evaluation Services

Foreign credential evaluation of SRU degree by the American Evaluation Institute

With respect to the universities, it should be noted that detractors of SRU, notably Dr John Bear, commonly used to ask its defenders to produce just one accredited university that would accept its credits or degrees. It will be clear that there were, in fact, several, and there were others besides those that have been documented above. Directly such information was made public, however, it would lead to the targeting of the institutions concerned by those opposed to SRU in a bid to reverse the situation; it is doubtful that any of the universities above were still accepting SRU degrees beyond 2003. For example, the University of Connecticut’s response to a SRU graduate’s admissions enquiry was made available on the web in April 2003; it is reproduced below:

After Bear contacted the author, however, things changed:

[Bear] Following an inquiry as to whether Ms. Balinskas had in fact written this memo, and whether her office did, in fact, accept the degrees of St. Regis University, Ms. Balinskas replied as follows:

Date: 2003-04-30 17:36:33 PST

“I have gone back through my e-mail archives to try to find the original question regarding St. Regis.  All I was able to find was this e-mail that was written after I faxed back the response to the question. As is evident, the Subject of this e-mail was Bachelor’s Equivalence in general, and not St. Regis.  I am truly sorry for this misunderstanding.

My information indicates that there are two national academic bodies in Liberia authorized to accredit educational institutions: the Ministry of Education and the Liberian National Commission for Unesco. There are only 2 institutions recognized by these bodies as legitimate: University of Liberia and Cuttington University College.  I also have an e-mail from an educational advising assistant at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia that the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Univ. has the approval of the Ministry of Education to operate in Liberia. Unless there are other (more recent than my references) educational institutions that have been LEGITIMATELY ACCREDITED we would only consider applicants from the institutions I have listed above.

Marylou Balinskas, Director, Graduate Admissions
University of Connecticut, 438 Whitney Rd. Ext. Unit 1006
Storrs, CT 06269-1006, E-Mail: mary.b…
Phone: (860) 486-0988, Fax (860) 486-6739″


It will be obvious that this response was at complete variance with the memo; it was also factually incorrect, in that the Liberian National Commission for UNESCO never had any role in the accreditation of educational institutions. But the strategy for SRU’s opponents was clear and proceeded by several steps:

  1. challenge SRU to produce any accredited US university that had a policy of accepting its credits, and use the lack of the same to make a case that SRU was not legitimate.
  2. contact any school that did appear to accept SRU and supply negative information concerning SRU to it, including discrediting its accreditation, possibly even with a threat that any school accepting SRU would be reported to its accreditor.
  3. produce a public response from the school that stated that, despite any document to the contrary, it never had and never would accept SRU.

This activity further inflamed the conflict between SRU and its opponents.

The positions of foreign credential evaluators changed, too, though this was prompted more by the 2004 disclaimer (that will be discussed below) and negative publicity. The former American Evaluation Institute was the last evaluator known to accept SRU degrees and was still doing so at the point of SRU’s closure.

There were several cases of SRU graduates being accepted to postgraduate degree programmes at accredited universities in the USA and elsewhere, and going on to complete those programmes successfully. They were the fortunate ones. Other postgraduate students were targeted and expelled from their programmes once activists had seized on their SRU degrees and made trouble for them.

4. SRU and the Liberian government

The Second Liberian Civil War had reached a point of relative stability by September 2002 when the government lifted the state of emergency in Monrovia. 2003 started quietly but then degenerated into further fighting in March. At this stage the USA and others exerted pressure to bring about peace talks. These took place in Ghana from June 2003 and after US forces had ended the siege of the capital in July, President Charles Taylor agreed to resign in August. This was not the end of hostilities and conditions in Liberia continued to be hazardous and characterized by violence, shortages, and poverty. Amid this situation, members of the civil and diplomatic services went unpaid for long periods of time.

SRU was in touch directly with President Charles Taylor both by phone and email prior to his resignation.

SRU was represented at the peace talks in August by Richard Novak, its Executive Vice-Chancellor, who travelled from his home in the USA with Abdulah K. Dunbar of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C. As a result of SRU’s representation at the talks, the Liberian Embassy in Ghana agreed also to act as a verification source for the accreditation and status of SRU, with the contact details of the Chargé d’Affaires, Andrew Kronyanh, being listed on the SRU website. In addition, Novak met with Kabineh Ja’neh, who would be appointed Minister of Justice in the new administration, and who was supportive of SRU’s educational mission. A group of SRU’s alumni had expressed a wish to assist Liberia in its reconstruction efforts, and it was put to Ja’neh that the funds alumni had raised could be used to set up a scholarship fund for students at the University of Liberia, which had been largely destroyed during the fighting. Ja’neh informed Novak that the Ministry of Education would be the responsible body for any such arrangement. An agreement for the acceptance of academic credits was also to be negotiated by Ja’neh between SRU and the University of Liberia in 2004, but this was not concluded. A similar credit agreement with the African Methodist Episcopal University had been mooted in 2003.

At the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., there was confusion for a period in 2003 as to who was in charge between Abdulah Dunbar, the First Secretary and Consul, and his rival Aaron Kollie, who as Chargé d’Affaires was head of the mission. Dunbar had come to the embassy in the 1990s under the Tolbert administration and was opposed to the Taylor regime, while Kollie had been appointed under the Taylor regime in 1998. Dunbar had been a key figure in obtaining accreditation for SRU and was paid a retainer by SRU to answer the many requests for verification of SRU directed to the embassy as well as additional fees for extra work when required. Kollie, meanwhile, would later be cited as having provided assistance to the US authorities in the SRU prosecutions(3).

Dunbar was responsible for sending official letters to several US-based critics of SRU, defending the university and its accreditation.

>>Dunbar to Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, 10 March 2003
>>Dunbar to Ten Speed Press, 10 March 2003

In June 2003, Dunbar was recalled to Monrovia, but refused to go. He maintained that the recall was void because it was part of a plot by Kollie and others to sack him. When he attended the Liberian peace talks with Novak in Ghana in August 2003, Novak lobbied for Dunbar’s reinstatement. Meanwhile, the US State Department confirmed Dunbar’s recall and withdrew his diplomatic status, with the result that Dunbar returned to Monrovia in October 2003.

During Aaron Kollie’s time in charge of the Embassy, he had refused to confirm the accreditation of SRU to enquirers and issued the following statement in September 2003,

The Embassy of Liberia in Washington, DC wishes to dissociate itself and to announce that it has no official dealings with the online St. Regis University. The Embassy of Liberia is not a source to verify or authenticate the accreditation status of St. Regis University, and would as such assume no responsibility for any reference to the Embassy. Anyone seeking clarification on the status of St. Regis University should channel same directly to St. Regis.
Sgd: Aaron B. Kollie, Charge d’Affaires

After this, Kollie was contacted by SRU, and it became clear that he would be prepared to confirm SRU’s accreditation, so long as SRU arranged to pay him a similar retainer to that which they had paid Dunbar. Kollie was paid a sum of money, but events overtook the arrangement.

Dunbar arrived back in the Washington embassy shortly after his departure, this time bearing two letters from the new administration, one confirming his appointment as Chargé d’Affaires, and the other recalling Kollie. This time, Kollie refused to depart, and the two men ran rival administrations from the same embassy until the matter was finally resolved in Dunbar’s favour in December 2003(4). Dunbar would serve as head of the mission until the appointment of S. Prince Porte as Chargé d’Affaires in February 2004. Porte served until the appointment of Charles A. Minor as Ambassador in June 2004. According to Dunbar, Charles Minor was opposed to him, just as Kollie had been, because of Dunbar’s known antipathy to the Taylor regime.

Because of the confusion Kollie’s statement had brought about, Dr Bestman of the National Commission of Higher Education wrote the following letter to Oregon’s Office of Degree Authorization on 20 October 2003:

On 11 September 2003, the National Commission of Higher Education under Dr Bestman issued a document recognizing and authenticating SRU as a further measure to combat Kollie’s disinformation.

This document was authenticated by the Liberian Ministry of Justice on 2 February 2004:

and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the following day:

On 16 October 2003, SRU was awarded accreditation for a further five year period by the National Commission of Higher Education. This took it beyond the two year accreditation period awarded by the Commission on 28 August 2002, which would have expired on 27 August 2004.

The accreditation document and the charter that accompanied it would bring SRU into compliance with the published National Policy requirements. The Charter was very obviously not created in 1984, since it makes reference to delivering programmes via the Internet. However, this document was backdated to the original date of the creation of the Liberian school that subsequently became SRU with the full knowledge and blessing of the National Commission on Higher Education and its Executive Director, Dr Lawrence Bestman. Governments can and do enact retrospective provisions, and may also provide for the legality and validity of backdated documents.

>>SRU Charter

In mid-2003, I spoke to Dr Lawrence Bestman, Executive Director of the National Commission on Higher Education, on the telephone. My purpose in speaking with him was to establish the authenticity of SRU’s accreditation documents and also to gain some impression of the position of the Ministry of Education on distance learning and related matters. Our conversation lasted the best part of an hour, during which he confirmed that SRU was a totally legitimate Liberian university, and stated that he had dealt with them for about five years. Indeed, he had himself graduated from SRU during the 1990s. He confirmed that the National Commission of Higher Education under him was the only entity licensed to accredit universities in Liberia, and informed me that the accreditation process was “rigorous”. He was insistent that I should refer all enquiries to him directly, and that he was the authorized authority of the Ministry of Education to deal with all accreditation matters. He stated emphatically that the charter and the accreditation certificates that bore his signature were authentic.

Ambassador Prince Porte also issued a document on 18 March 2004 disclaiming Kollie’s actions and reaffirming the accreditation of SRU by Dr Bestman on 16 October 2003, including a list of recognized Liberian universities that had been prepared Dr Roland at the Ministry of Education:

I spoke by telephone to Abdulah Dunbar in January 2004, and to the Chargé d’Affaires at the Liberian Embassy in Ghana, Andrew Kronyanh. They both confirmed the accreditation to me and spoke highly of SRU. I spoke on two occasions to the Liberian Embassy in London, UK. On the first occasion, they told me that they had never heard of SRU. I reported this when speaking with Dunbar, who assured me he would deal with the matter. On the second occasion I called the London embassy in May 2004, they confirmed that SRU was on the list of recognized universities in Liberia.

On 27 May 2004, Prince Porte wrote to the newly appointed Liberian Ambassador in Washington, D.C., Charles Minor, confirming the authenticity of SRU and its accreditation as issued by Dr Bestman on 16 October 2003:

5. Trouble for SRU

One aspect of SRU that caused controversy was the anonymity of its advisors, who were referred to either by their first names or by aliases. Dixie explained this by saying,

“Most of the advisors were female, and wanted online anonymity. I came to know Kristiaan De Ley, owner of Concordia College & University, and he recommended the use of online names, and did this also at his university. He found the males were treated differently, and many females were often dismissed as “secretaries” or even harassed.  He told me that females faced some discrimination and were not always treated with the same respect as the males. I also noticed many online schools, businesses and universities used only first names or screen names, so it made sense at the time.”

Dixie herself used a number of male aliases, including “Dr Thomas Carper” and “Patrick O’Brien”. At that time, entrepreneurs in postsecondary education were rare and female entrepreneurs vanishingly so.

As SRU got bigger, so it ran into difficulties. According to Dixie,

In the beginning, all advisors were well trained, some with teaching degrees, and others with experience in related fields.

But, as SRU grew and became very successful, many people came to us wanting to be “affiliates.” This was a time that online affiliate programs were quite new, but we had people from countries all over the world who wanted to be a part of this great new enterprise. I spent hours, weeks, months, training these new affiliates, and at first I saw no problems. But, as I am sure you are aware, some had other ideas….bad ones. One advisor, who was actually working on our Spokane office, using my equipment, staff, everything, simply copied my website. Word for word, and connected it all to his email addresses and credit card accounts and began issuing degrees – based on nothing at all.

We discovered this, by accident, got rid of him and shut down his fake sites, but damage was done. Then, some similar things happened with affiliates overseas, and I soon found I was losing control of what these people were doing.

At times I did have to speak to advisors for giving credit for fake submissions, or getting greedy and accepting just money without careful evaluation for equivalency.  I believe overall, our staff did an excellent job,  but it may be that some sloppy work got through from affiliates and people who just copied and stole our identity.”

Realistically, SRU had now developed into a major international enterprise that could only have been kept under control through building an equally significant administrative network through which authority could be delegated and each aspect of its operations managed closely and effectively. This would also need better systems designed to prevent the assessment processes from being abused. The problems were compounded by the fact that any failure was, of course, eagerly seized upon by the academic establishment and the newspapers.

SRU worded its application and disclaimers very carefully to avoid misleading clients. Dixie recalls,

SRU degrees were granted to politicians, judges, several prison wardens, CEOs, clergy, and people from all walks of life. We knew of no problems at all from any degree holder. When degrees were confirmed the inquirer was simply told the person had a degree and never were they told that anyone attended classes or took courses, or that SRU or other universities were “schools.” Every degree holder knew exactly how they earned their degree and was involved in the process.

In 2003, SRU created an alumni forum, and strong bonds began to develop among the eclectic mix of characters that emerged there, who included some who were now professors at SRU. It was not long before there was a concerted effort by this group to try to address external concerns regarding SRU and to help it achieve its potential. There was also much internal criticism and suggestions for improvement, some of which were acted upon.

There was also a movement to try to supply aid to Liberia to help with regeneration after the civil war, and some US$28,000 was raised for this purpose. Robert Stefaniak, one of SRU’s graduates and professors, who co-ordinated the effort, said this of it,

“Every dollar donated is matched with SRU matching funds. One dollar is then worth two and that becomes $120.00 Liberian.

Where else can you donate say $10.00 to a needed charity and have that ten bucks turn into $20 US and turn into a Liberian total of $1,200.00 worth of aid to people recovering from years of civil war, food shortages, water pollution, and outbreaks of cholera and dysentery?  Getting kids back to school with education assistance is a major thrust of our goal as we work with the African Methodist Episcopal University in Monrovia, Liberia through their director Dr. Louise York.

Children in Liberia need to get healthy before they can return to the business of education and focus on rebuilding their lives, now that peacekeepers are in place and a new transitional government restores constitutional law and order under the watchful eye of the UN and the worldwide community.

You may want to give directly through the UN or other NGO non government organizations often faith based. But, your gift through our alumni association drive is automatically doubled with SRU matching all donations.”

SRU’s enemies were quick to try to portray SRU as exploiting Liberia in conditions of war and poverty. However, the reality was not only that Liberia had given SRU strong support from the outset but also that there was a sincere wish among many involved to see Liberia recover and strengthen from the recent conflict. When SRU was represented at Liberia’s peace talks, it was as a valued NGO with contacts at every level of government, seen as a key player in Liberia’s development and in the bid to credential its citizens.

Professorship at SRU was, for most holders, not a remunerated position. The advisors handled the assessment of candidates, and one role of the professors was intended to be to deal with any candidates who did not qualify based on initial assessment, and then needed to complete some form of top-up coursework or dissertation to qualify. Some professors did advise candidates in this way.

For most SRU professors, however, professorship was an honorary title, which could also be obtained by purchase for qualified candidates. Only a minority of professors were listed on the websites, some of whom were highly accomplished individuals. The alumni forum had called for more Liberian professors to be added to the faculty, and as a result a number from the African Methodist Episcopal University were appointed in 2003-04. These were remunerated by SRU, but were unable to do much for it since the poor state of telecommunications networks in Liberia meant that the Internet was often inaccessible for long periods.

The professors were encouraged subsequently to develop distance learning courses. In October 2004, SRU relaunched with a series of schools – business, marketing, behavioural sciences etc. which were independently-run on a franchise model. This model would transfer to James Monroe University on SRU’s closure. It addressed long-held criticism that SRU did not teach or offer courses.

Some of those involved in course development had also been involved with the University College for Advanced Studies, which had launched in January 2004 from a base in Greece, owned by one of the SRU professors. This prepared students for degrees awarded by SRU and several other universities. In 2005, the majority of this work was transferred to a short-lived new affiliated school incorporated in Panama called Athenaeum University International. This had prepared students for JMU degrees. It closed in 2006.

At an early stage, SRU had come up against opposition from individuals and powerful institutions with a specific agenda. On the surface, that agenda was consumer protection and the combatting of fraud and criminal activity in education. Beneath the surface, what was really going on was specific advocacy against those schools and individuals who threatened the vested interests of the American educational establishment, with SRU perceived as constituting the greatest danger. Too often, the tactics of “diploma mill hunters” have blurred the distinction between diploma mills and legitimate alternative schools, and between those who use degrees with the intent to commit fraud and those who are in fact unwitting victims of that fraud.

Most obviously, the matter is deeply personal for those concerned. The inherent subjectivity of education leads to the situation where one man’s diploma mill is another’s alternative university. Such clashes do not stay dormant for long. They find expression in vendettas, rivalries, trolling and abuse that are all too familiar to readers of internet discussion forums. And at times, this behavior goes offline, sometimes with serious consequences. SRU was never given a fair hearing, with its defenders ridiculed, banned and attacked on and offline from the outset, and this sparked a predictable reaction. In retrospect, by far the best strategy would have been simply to have ignored much of what was being said, and yet those involved on SRU’s side felt, understandably, that there was a strong chance (given the evidence) that they could prevail. In the course of this process, the most vociferous of the anti-SRU internet forums,, would unexpectedly be exposed as having close links with epebophile pornography, a preference that has always been suspected to be close to the hidden circles of the deep establishment.

The discussion forums included members of the academic establishment and others whose networks included the gatekeepers of that establishment – college registrars, admissions officers, some foreign credential evaluators, and others involved in activism. A further category was those officials involved in administering laws in certain US states against the use of degrees from domestic and foreign universities that were not considered to have the equivalent of recognized US accreditation. The judgements involved were based on opinion, but were too often presented with the certainty of the zealot.

In July 2003, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) issued a statement concerning SRU:

“Saint Regis University” is a virtual university claiming recognition by the Ministry of Education of Liberia. Recently, the Ministry of Education in Liberia has recognized a number of virtual universities, few of which have any actual physical entity in Liberia. Most of these virtual universities use the same address in Monrovia. Recognition of an institution by the appropriate educational authority of a country is usually strong evidence of the credibility of its issued academic awards as comparable to similar awards in the United States. However, as the standards of recognition of institutions in some countries may vary due to local conditions such as civil war and economic hardship, simple recognition by a foreign government alone cannot be considered an automatic guarantee of comparability to a United States academic award and each country’s system must be judged on its own merits in this regard. Therefore, while we acknowledge previous recognition by the Ministry of Education of Liberia of the following universities – the University of Liberia, Cuttington University College, and the African Methodist Episcopal University – we do not accept the recognition of Saint Regis University by the Ministry of Education on Liberia as comparable with the recognition afforded the three above referenced universities and AACRAO considers Saint Regis University to be comparable to an entity in the United States that does not have regional academic accreditation.

AACRAO importantly did not deny that SRU was accredited by the Liberian government; rather, it questioned the meaning of that accreditation and its comparability to US standards. Others concerned with foreign credential evaluation, as has been shown above, did not find those aspects to be problematic.

In mid-2003, Dixie created websites at the domains and She has said of this,

One question that came up almost every day – “Is SRU accredited”?  We had a certificate and accreditation was genuine but there was no way to verify it. So, I asked someone in the Department of Education, I think it was Isaac Roland, if they’d post accreditations at their website. I was told they had no website. I asked if they might have one soon, and there was no plan for this. We discussed that there was no way for the public to see the accreditation of any Liberian schools so they needed a website for this and many other uses. I had Rick [Novak] meet with Bestman, Prince Porte and  Roland, in Monrovia,  to offer to build one for them, as we had a good relationship and they did a lot for us.

So, one of our techs built it but it was put into control of one of their government officials. They not only knew, they wanted us to do this, and seemed to be happy with it.

The websites gave general information about Liberia and a list of recognized universities, including SRU, with a verification email. The contact for the websites at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC, was the Consul General, Mrs Stataria Cooper, who answered all telephone enquiries arising from them.

An email address associated with these websites was used by Dixie to send email to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, complaining that Dr George Gollin was using his faculty webpage to publish material attacking SRU. Gollin reported that in August 2003 he had taken the online test for SRU’s high school division twice, scoring 26 and 21 per cent respectively, and being offered an associate’s degree both times. UIUC initially sided with SRU and ordered Gollin to remove the material from his website(5), an act which he has referred to as trying to “drop the University of Illinois on me like an anvil.”(6) Subsequently, after protest, UIUC reversed its decision. But by then, SRU had made a mortal enemy in Gollin, and one who would develop a host of contacts with accreditation agencies, education regulators, the academic establishment, government and assorted diploma mill vigilantes. Gollin had no doubt that he was morally in the right. He said of SRU, “These sons of bitches who smell money are just using the situation [in Liberia] there for their own ends,” says Gollin. “They’re monsters. They’re just disgusting monsters.”(7) Gollin was quoted in a later interview as saying, “My anger about all this just stuck.” So did his thirst for revenge. “I was going to fuck them.”(8)

In October 2003, George Gollin tried unsuccessfully to get the FTC to sue SRU. That winter, he wrote a document entitled “Information about the “National Board of Education”, Saint Regis University and American Coastline University”. This was added to by John Bear, the author of a well-known distance learning guide, who had both operated diploma mills and subsequently acted as a consultant to the FBI in diploma mill prosecutions. Alan Contreras, administrator of Oregon’s Office of Degree Authorization, also became involved in the anti-SRU campaign. Gollin’s document reached Washington’s Attorney-General, but there was no willingness to file suit. In time, all three antagonists would correspond privately with Dixie. She recalls,

I did try to talk to Bear, because I wanted his help to make any corrections he thought were needed to stop all the issues with Gollin. But, he was more interested in being Gollin’s friend…it almost seemed he was envious of SRU.

Unfortunately, the document was inaccurate in some respects. It named Dr Richard J. Hoyer, who had been SRU’s provost on a volunteer basis between February and October 2002, as a major force behind SRU. In fact, Hoyer had discontinued his involvement and stepped down soon after SRU became accredited in Liberia, and was never an owner or manager of SRU. John Bear had other ideas, however. Writing at in August 2003, he said, “For the record, Richard Hoyer, who at one time controlled American Coastline University is also a (or the) founder of St. Regis University.”(9) This produced a furious remonstration from Hoyer, which Bear proceeded to ridicule and then ignore. In October 2003, Bear would wrongly attribute the Liberian Embassy website to Hoyer too, stating “Richard Hoyer sets up a a Liberian embassy site, which supports the accreditation of St. Regis University.”(10) In fact, the Liberian Embassy website had absolutely nothing to do with Hoyer. Did the accusers check? Did they care? Not if it suited their agenda. Hoyer would eventually publish his own reply on the forums, entitled “Stalking in the Guise of Academic Freedom”.

SRU graduates began to be targeted, too. Eleven teachers in Georgia with SRU degrees had been awarded pay raises on the basis of their new degrees. What had once been acceptable to the board ceased to be so once activists and journalists started their campaign, and all were banned from working in Georgia public schools.

It was easy for those opposed to SRU to convince the majority that SRU was not legitimate. Most people know little or nothing of higher education methodology beyond the practices of traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The idea of a progressive non-traditional distance-learning establishment that challenges these practices in a controversial way is not what people expect from education, largely because their expectation is rooted in state control and time-serving. The public view of educational standards is largely a detached one, and the idea that those standards might be highly subjective is disconcerting to them. They are readily persuadable that experiential credit is at best “easy” and at worst fraudulent, and that “real” education consists of sitting in a classroom receiving instruction, doing assignments and taking exams. They are unfamiliar with theorists such as Elizabeth Monroe Drews, who wrote “It is immoral for us to squander [the learner’s] time by asking him to learn what he already knows”(11). They are also used to taking national accreditation as a definitive indicator of acceptability. In some countries, practices just as controversial as those of SRU are undertaken at nationally accredited schools, but because those schools do not target the US market, they pass without notice.

Moreover, higher education is highly unionized and operates as a cartel. It could not be less market-friendly if it tried, and that is before we get to the overwhelmingly left-wing bias of academics. Indeed, the unfettered free market is the enemy of mainstream education as currently constituted. SRU met that market directly at its point of need, rather than funneling the market through the narrow and artificial aperture that mainstream academia imposed. The cognitive dissonance this created could only be met with condemnation from those who had something to lose from SRU’s innovation.

SRU had hoped to be included in the authoritative International Association of Universities/UNESCO World Handbook of Universities. Listing of institutions is based on their forwarding by the government ministry responsible, and the following letter was issued on 18 October 2003,

Despite this, the intervention of opponents soon meant that SRU’s inclusion in the Handbook was not to be.

During May 2004, Senator Susan Collins held US Senate hearings on the subject of diploma mills. SRU’s enemies in the US accreditation cartel ensured that it was mentioned unfavourably and given no opportunity for right of reply or a balanced presentation. Bear’s former colleague Allen Ezell, a retired FBI agent, spoke on SRU, and inter alia repeated the false statement that Richard Hoyer operated SRU.

This was the point when, according to Dr Roland, problems with SRU began. In fact, as has been shown, it was well before then that the US education establishment had determined to put SRU out of business in any way possible. Its public denunciation now gave legitimacy and impetus to that mission.

In October 2004, Dr Roland would subsequently write in an email, “At the moment, the U.S. Embassy has and continues to raise serious concerns regarding St Regis. The Embassy has expressed, with grave concern, that the U.S. Government may likely withhold certain financial and technical support for the Ministry of Education.” (Isaac Roland, email to Robert Stefaniak, 6 October 2004) There was a clear trade-off here; if the Liberians continued to support SRU, it would come at the cost of losing much more valuable American foreign aid.

Accordingly, Dr Roland and Chairperson Dr Evelyn S. Kandakai issued a disclaimer of the accreditation of SRU, declaring its documentation null and void.

Dr Roland now further asserted that Dr Lawrence Bestman, who had issued the five-year accreditation certificate to SRU, had been dismissed from his position on 14 October 2003. This was not credible; Dr Bestman was in touch with SRU in his official capacity well after that date, and moreover he was referenced by Justice Kabineh Ja’neh and by Abdulah Dunbar in their communications. The documents he had issued after 14 October 2003 had been authenticated in Liberia and given credence by Liberian government sources, an unlikely position if he had not had the authority to issue them.

The disclaimer was dated 22 July 2004, but it was not published to the web or publicized until October 2004. It was posted at on 5 October. Given its supposedly “urgent” status, the delay of several months was curious. It might be speculated that the document was most likely backdated, and that its creation was prompted by pressure from the US government in the wake of the Senate hearings.

All was not lost for SRU. Dr Roland subsequently showed that he was trying to square the circle of standing by the 22 July statement while reconciling it with a more honest account of what had really happened regarding the accreditation. Consider this email from Dr Roland from 3 January 2005, for example:

Because St Regis University, James Monroe University and Robertstown University first applied for accreditation prior to [14 October 2003] it is certain that the school’s officials had no knowledge that their accreditation certificates signed after Bestman was dismissed were not effective. This does not mean that the schools did not meet the criteria to be accredited, and in fact it appears that they each do operate in compliance with all Liberian laws and regulations.

SRU enlisted Prince Porte to intercede on its behalf as well as Novak and Robert Stefaniak, and there was an exchange of emails with Dr Roland leading eventually to his issuing a disclaimer of the disclaimer on 20 December 2004, the text of which had been worked-out with SRU beforehand:

This now meant that SRU was “recognized” but not “accredited” by Liberia – a distinction that had not previously existed. However, it was a distinction largely without significance. No schools in Liberia were now “accredited” since none had yet completed the new process. “Recognized” schools were still fully authorized by the Liberian government to award degrees. The verification of the recognition was still available from Liberian embassies.

Dr Roland’s position was established through interview, recorded in a defence memorandum in the SRU case,

“Dr. Roland stated that because the St. Regis people had been mislead by the previous MoE administration during the Charles Taylor regime, they were not aware that two signatures were required on the accreditation documents and based on the documents they had obtained from the Liberian government should have reasonably believed they were accredited by the Liberian government.

Dr. Roland went on to state that after the disclaimer signed by he and Evelyn Kandakai as posted on the Embassy web site the St. Regis people tried to resolve the situation by interacting with him and Ambassador Prince Porte. Dr. Roland did state that he visited the offices of St. Regis University in Monrovia along with Porte to establish the schools presence in Liberia. After reviewing documents and establishing the presence he subsequently prepared the letter dated December 20, 2004. Roland stated that there was no specific documented process established by the MOE for online schools during the time St. Regis was going through this process, and to this day there is no defined policy or process for the accreditation of online universities.

Dr. Roland stated that his position is that there is a difference between Accreditation and Recognition and although St. Regis was “Recognized” they were not fully accredited, so the list of “Recognized Higher Education Institutions of Liberia” which was- posted on the Embassy web site, which he prepared and signed, was accurate.”

>>Affidavit of Brian R. Breen, filed 7 December 2007

The view taken by Dr Roland in his private correspondence with SRU was that SRU urgently needed to address the concerns about its operations that had been raised in the USA. But once this was done, he foresaw bright prospects. In an email to Stefaniak of 6 October 2004, Dr Roland said, “I have seen the St. Regis catalogue, and the programs and professors are excellent and fantastic; hence, I do not doubt the credibility of the institution.” Dr Roland knew of what he was speaking; he too was a graduate of SRU.

There were also efforts made by Ambassador Prince Porte on his return to Liberia. According to the defence report of interview with Porte, after the disclaimer had been published, “Richard Novak seeking assistance contacted Porte, and Porte agreed to assist Novak through the process of accreditation, including setting up an office for St. Regis University in Monrovia [which was one of the conditions of the accreditation process]. Ambassador Porte did make arrangements for various items of office furniture and computers for the office, which were paid for by Novak via wire transfer. He also made arrangements for staff and once the office was set up went with Dr. Roland to inspect the office. Ambassador Porte stated that once Dr. Roland saw the office he stated that it was better then all of the other ones he had inspected.”

Porte confirmed the views expressed by Dr Roland earlier in response to interview, “Ambassador Porte specifically stated to me that based on the documents provided to St. Regis University prior to the disclaimer from the Ministry of Education, the people associated with St. Regis would have reasonably believed that the University was in fact accredited and recognized by the Liberian Government, and that even after the disclaimer based on Dr. Roland’s list of “Recognized Higher Education Institutions of Liberia”, that they were at the least “Recognized”.’

Abdulah Dunbar was also interviewed concerning the accreditation status of SRU. He said, “Dunbar stated that the [accreditation] documents were legitimate and that it was “impossible for the St. Regis people not to think they were accredited by the Liberian Government”.

In 2004, I telephoned Jallah Faciann in Liberia, who was then listed as the Director of SRU. I was not aware of it at the time, but Faciann was Dunbar’s brother-in-law. Prior to becoming SRU Director, he had been the manager of an internet café. After SRU ceased operations, he went to work for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Faciann was again strongly defensive of SRU’s operations and standards. He informed me that he was speaking from SRU’s office in Monrovia and that this office was functioning as best it could in the difficulties of the post-war environment.

During mid-2004, following the Senate hearings, Dr Gollin’s efforts to haul SRU into court began to bear fruit. Himself a Democratic Party activist, a decade later he would be a future candidate in a Democratic senate primary(12). He lobbied Christine Gregoire, Washington’s attorney-general, who was now the Democrat candidate for governor of Washington, to take on the SRU case. As a result, in July 2004, the Spokane Office of Consumer Protection opened an investigation based on the earlier Gollin/Bear report. In September 2004, Gollin was brought in as an unpaid expert consultant. Significantly, his expertise with respect to this case was not in distance education, experiential credit or non-traditional degree programmes, but in the protection of the academic establishment from those entities considered to be “diploma mills” that threatened it. The case was pitched to the FBI, who were not interested, and then to the US Secret Service, who were, based on the alleged implications for foreign terrorists using SRU degrees to obtain US visas. In January 2005, a major multi-agency investigation was initiated, called Operation Gold Seal.

Meanwhile, Regis University, a non-profit regionally accredited Jesuit university in Colorado, had been persuaded to file a trademark infringement lawsuit against several staff members of SRU and Dr Richard Hoyer in the state of Washington on 6 December 2004. Interestingly, Regis had first made a similar complaint to SRU as early as 2002, which had been resolved when SRU agreed to include a disclaimer on its websites stating that it had no affiliation with Regis University. However, SRU had since omitted the disclaimer. The timing of the lawsuit was not coincidental. Gollin would write that the disclaimer of SRU issued on 22 July (that became public in October) had permitted the filing of the lawsuit, and it was quoted in an exhibit to the complaint filed, along with a slew of negative press coverage of SRU. Subsequent coverage on the Regis University website suggested that Gollin had directly prompted them to file suit.

The Regis suit prompted an escalation of the flamewar between SRU and Gollin, and supporters of SRU focused on online material concerning Gollin and his family. Gollin responded on his webpage with a graphic consisting of a rifle-sight superimposed next to the names of the defendants. This was taken by the defendants to be a death threat. A similar crosshairs image had been used as a signature by the so-called Zodiac Killer.

Dixie called both the police and the University of Illinois concerning this threat, but neither took any action. Legal counsel, consisting of attorney Cyril Jones of the firm Jones & Jones in Monrovia, was retained by SRU with a view to gathering evidence and potentially filing suit against Gollin and/or the University of Illinois for harassment and interference with business relationships.

The Regis case did not proceed to trial and was settled out of court in June 2005, with the defendants admitting none of the allegations against them but agreeing not to use the name “St Regis” or any similar name in the future. According to one of the defendants, the Regis University attorneys called Gollin a “loose cannon”. Since the judge made no award of costs, Regis University had lost around $200K in lawyers’ fees for very little return.

On 12 December 2004, SRU had announced its closure on its website,

“Sadly, it has come to our attention that after an agreement made several years ago with the Jesuit Monks of Regis University of Colorado, and after many years of voluntarily posting at our website that St. Regis University is not connected in any way to any similarly named universities or colleges, that the Jesuit Monks of Regis University of Colorado are now making a complaint that St. Regis is infringing upon their name “Regis” University.

While is true that this longstanding notice was inadvertently left out by a webmaster or designer after a recent remodel of our website, it is also true that at no time did any Regis University official, student, applicant, etc or any other individual from any other similarity named entity ever once complain to St. Regis University of the missing notice nor has there been even one complaint or report of any confusion in names made by Regis University of Colorado or by any individual. Had anyone contacted us with a complaint that the notice had been removed in the new design it would have been replaced on the index page without hesitation, as it had been placed as originally agreed upon several years ago and had remained for years afterward.

It is also true that St. Regis University has never used any similar logo or trademark ever held by the Jesuit monks of Regis University or used their name or trademarks in any practices.

At no time has St. Regis University held itself out to be any US entity, and in fact is a Liberian university.

Contrary to their complaint, St. Regis University has never had any presence in Washington State, nor Colorado. St. Regis University, a non-US entity is located and incorporated in the Republic of Liberia. Our website has clearly states that in the case of ANY dispute the laws of Liberia shall prevail, as St. Regis University is a legally registered corporation in the Republic of Liberia.

St. Regis University is also in the final stages of re-accreditation by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Liberia and has always legally operated.

If any entity using the name St. Regis University does indeed exist within the United States please notify us as St. Regis University and/or individuals named in the Regis complaint will take legal action against any such entity for infringement and damages against us. Any such entity (if one exists) has NO connection to St. Regis University of Liberia nor does St. Regis University and/or individuals named in the Colorado Regis complaint defend nor claim any responsibility or ownership in any university similarly named (if any exist).

We are aware of only one instance where there was any confusion at all and this was when our school, St. Regis University of Liberia gave a donation of $1000 to a humanitarian cause and the acknowledgement of thanks was mistakenly given to Regis University of Colorado.

No student or applicant has ever reported to us or claimed to be confused of any similarities in the school’s names, even though there are many such similarly named schools throughout the world.

St. Regis University is unique in that it is a Liberian online school, completely unlike Regis of Colorado which is a religious school of bricks and mortar located in the U.S..

We believe this complaint (and others) are being instigated by a group of individuals including a University of Illinois professor, an Oregon government official known for his admittedly non-researched and controversial list of online schools he labels as “mills” and “substandard”, and a two writers capitalizing on the sale of books about online degrees. This group is well-known to us for their apparent hatred toward many nontraditional online universities, particularity those located in the African country of Liberia.

Contrary to the claims made by these cohorts and news story reporters (including one who admits publicly that he need not be truthful in his stories) St. Regis University has always been a legally operating entity and has never “sold” degrees or broken any laws. St. Regis University operates in full compliance with all laws and regulations of the Ministry of Education of The Republic of Liberia and is not a U.S. entity nor operating in the U.S.

Out of respect for the feelings and wishes of the Jesuit Monks at Regis University of Colorado, St. Regis University Liberia is voluntarily discontinuing the use of our legally registered name and moving voluntarily all programs, curriculum and services to another University until this matter is completely resolved.

We pray that the Jesuit Monks at Regis University of Colorado will remember our acts of sincerity, cooperation and respect of their wishes since our first contact with them years ago, and that again our immediate cooperation and willingness to end any conflict will help to bring this matter to closure.”

Having first obtained the permission of the Liberian Ministry of Education, SRU’s programmes and infrastructure were transferred to another Randock-operated institution, James Monroe University. Robertstown University was also now being operated by the Randocks. James Monroe and Robertstown had both been awarded accreditation by Dr Bestman on 16 October 2003. In due course Robertstown received a charter dated 1982 that was very similar to that of SRU. However, Robertstown had been disclaimed by Dr Roland, citing Dr Bestman’s alleged dismissal, in October 2004, and Dr Roland’s letter of 20 December 2004 only addressed SRU, not Robertstown.

At the beginning of 2005, former Ambassador Prince Porte, who had no further assignment with the Liberian diplomatic service, was offered and accepted the position of Director of James Monroe University. He worked daily from the University’s office in Monrovia.

On 18 January 2005, SRU’s leading antagonist Dr George Gollin wrote on the letterhead of his university to Ambassador Charles Minor, copying the letter to Dr Roland, Dr Kandakai, and others. In part the letter states: “A brief statement from Liberia, confirming the lack of Liberian recognition of any of the entities in the Saint Regis group and posted to the Embassy web site, will help the American authorities take action”. The letter also states: “The announcement “Urgent Disclaimer On The Illegal Establishment And Recognition Of Higher Education Institutions In The Republic Of Liberia” posted to the Embassy web site last October had some effect.”

>>Gollin to Ambassador Charles Minor, 18 January 2005

The Liberian Ministry of Education initiated a meeting with the US State Department in Monrovia that took place on 26 January 2005. The purpose of the meeting was to establish what the US position was now regarding SRU and the other NBOE schools, and the potential withdrawal of US funding. Dr Roland represented the Liberian Ministry of Education, while Porte and Novak represented the NBOE. According to interview, Porte said that “apparently the US Government was going to withhold money to Liberia and St. Regis was trying to get through the accreditation process, so that is why the meeting was organized. Porte stated that during the meeting the US representatives never specifically answered the question as to whether money would be withheld from Liberia if the St. Regis issue were not resolved.”

Defence investigator Brian R. Breen notes, “Another interesting aspect of this case is that on the same date (1/26/05) that the meeting is held in Monrovia with State Department Staff, [US Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge] Kevin Miller contacts [State Department Officer] Andrew Silski und Silski advises Miller “that in his opinion Ambassador Minor would be receptive to meeting in the future to discuss and disassociate his government from “Saint Regis University.”” Gollin’s letter to Ambassador Minor on 18 January had been copied to Silski. This was the same month that the Secret Service had initiated Operation Gold Seal.

The universities were clearly in trouble. In mid-2005, James Monroe University was replaced for a few months by “James Monroe International University”, claiming authority from both Liberia and the Principality of Seborga, but in early October 2005, it announced its closure. Both James Monroe and Robertstown issued the following statement:

The University has discontinued its online programs and will not reopen until conflicting information surrounding the authority under which all Liberia universities were re-accredited since 2004 has been completely clarified.

The major problems seem to be the inability of the Commission to develop a policy on distance learning, and the constant and unpredictable changes in officials, making verification of authority difficult, if not impossible.

Without the policy in place, and without the establishment of an official and reliable Liberian Government website for access to critical information regarding Liberian education and accreditation, the University does not wish to continue to be subjected to the issues of this confusion.

Even though the causes of this situation are no fault of this or any other Liberian university, James Monroe University will remain closed until proper and full support from the Commission is assured.

The real closure, however, had predated this by some months. On 11 August, US Secret Service agents had raided premises in Washington and Idaho and the evidence seized would form the basis for the subsequent indictment of the eight US citizens. Added to this was the evidence from undercover investigations by the USSS who had obtained degrees from James Monroe University and had sought to enter into business relationships with its principals.

One last document remains to be examined. This was a letter from Dr Roland to USSS Special Agent John Neirinckx dated 1 February 2006.

>>Isaac Roland letter to USSS, 1 February 2006

The letter is clearly written in a clumsy attempt to delegitimize the SRU 1984 charter. To take a few points in turn:

  • paragraph 1 seems to imply that no university could have been chartered in Liberia before 1989, when the NCHE came into existence. But there were and are several universities in Liberia that existed well before 1989. The University of Liberia, founded as Liberia College in 1847, is one, and Cuttington University (formerly College) is another, having been founded in 1889. From 1965 to 1972, the Ministry of Education also recognized the International Free Protestant Episcopal University, which conducted all its operations via distance learning.
  • paragraph 2 makes reference to the National Policy on Higher Education as a means of delegitimizing the establishment of SRU. But the National Policy was only published in 2002, and several universities were legally established and operating before then.
  • paragraphs 3 and 4 are therefore nonsense, since they contradict themselves.

Interestingly, at no point does the letter state, as SRU’s enemies might have expected it to, that the 1984 charter was false or fraudulent.

SRU in India

On 10 March 2004, SRU additionally incorporated as a charitable educational trust in India.

An office was established in Bangalore and an affiliation obtained with an organization called the Institution of Educators there. In India as of 2004, no government permission was required for a private body to confer degrees in non-technical subjects by distance learning, since the regulatory system then in force for distance learning programmes was voluntary. After SRU had transferred to James Monroe University, JMU obtained accreditation from the Distance Education Council of the Indian Board of Alternative Medicines, a large and well-regarded body.

JMU established a reciprocal credit transfer agreement with the accredited Kalinga University in Chhattisgarh. Unfortunately, in an unrelated development, the government in Chhattisgarh promptly closed all its universities and retrospectively annulled their accreditation. It would not be until 2011 that Kalinga University reopened, and by that time JMU was no more.

In the event, JMU’s operations in India ceased when its director, Abul Kalam Azad, broke acrimoniously with the SRU/JMU organization.

6. The legitimacy of the Liberian accreditation

Based on the discussion above, what conclusions can be drawn?

Firstly, between the dates of 28 August 2002 and 22 July 2004, SRU was fully accredited by the Liberian government, and this accreditation was confirmed by multiple Liberian government sources.

Faced with pressure from the United States authorities, Liberia disclaimed the accreditation of SRU as “null and void” with effect from 22 July 2004. However, on 20 December 2004, the Ministry of Education clarified that SRU was still “recognized” and therefore that it had government authority to operate as a university and issue degrees. While steps were taken by SRU to complete the Liberian accreditation process, these were incomplete at the time of SRU’s closure on 12 December 2004.

Even in light of the disclaimer, the degrees issued by SRU were still issued legally so far as Liberia was concerned, and in respect of their international status were issued by a university officially recognized by its national Ministry of Education, which is generally the standard required for acceptance universally.

The status of degrees that were backdated by SRU to dates before the award of accreditation in 2002 also appear to be legal. Backdated documents were considered to be valid in Liberia at that time. However, it would clearly not be possible for degrees issued prior to the grant of accreditation to be covered by that accreditation. Their only authority would be the SRU charter dated 1984. Given that this document had legal effect in Liberia, it would legitimize SRU degrees dated between 1984 and 2002.

Dr Roland’s statements of 2004 and 2006 were clearly issued under conditions of duress. Had the United States not issued an implicit threat of the withdrawal of funding to the Liberian Ministry of Education, Liberia would not have moved to disclaim SRU. The documents should be considered accordingly.

Was SRU a Liberian university? It was a crucial aim of the prosecution case in and following the indictment to establish that SRU was not a Liberian entity and that the documentation presented to the public that suggested otherwise was fraudulent. Charge 1, item 13 of the indictment reads in part, “It was further part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that defendants…led consumers, potential consumers, and others throughout the world to believe that “St Regis University,” “James Monroe University,” and “Robertstown University” were legitimate academic institutions of higher learning which had been officially accredited by the Ministry of Education in Liberia.” (Indictment of 5 October 2005, p. 5.)

But the answer from the Liberian Ministry of Education prior to 22 July 2004 was that SRU was a Liberian university and that its accreditation documentation was genuine and authentic. Even after that date, Liberia still “recognized” SRU as a legitimate university. Neither SRU nor its principals were ever charged with or convicted of any criminal offence in Liberia. Moreover, Liberia took no effective action to close SRU despite coming under US pressure to do so. Liberian government officials also repeatedly stated in official documentation that SRU was a Liberian university and not a US university.

Was the accreditation meaningful? Yes, but with a strong caveat. The issuing of accreditation in 2002 and 2003 was complicated by the fact that there were no established processes for evaluating applicants for accreditation that were operating entirely by distance learning, leaving those decisions to be taken ad hoc while Liberia was in a position of instability. In that context, the catalog of the university and the presentation by Richard Novak as its officer was the basis of the decision to accredit rather than a deeper analysis that would not have simply relied upon the university’s own statements and assurances.

But when in 2004 the National Commission of Higher Education set new criteria for SRU to achieve accreditation, there is evidence that SRU adapted and made the changes necessary to succeed in this process. Not merely this, but its physical facilities, programmes and professors were praised by Dr Roland of the Commission. By that time, however, US pressure on Liberia meant that SRU’s accreditation – and that of any other distance learning university – was effectively placed on indefinite hold.

It is also important to remember what accreditation does and does not do. Accreditation is primarily an examination of inputs. It is not a system of quality assurance. In many respects, accreditation is comparable to membership of an exclusive cartel. That cartel consists of the mainstream academic community worldwide. The cartel has its own rules, practices and expectations of newcomers. It is suspicious of outsiders who gain access to its privileges and who disrupt its way of doing things. Moreover, the cartel has influence, and access to political and legal enforcement. SRU entered the cartel through a legitimate route, but it was quickly apparent that it was such a threat to the established membership that it was imperative that it be ejected. That threat, despite SRU’s international reach, was most acutely felt in the USA, since SRU made dramatic and successful headway in the sector of the US market most targeted by lower-quality US accredited institutions operating through distance learning or short residency – mid-career adults.

Was the accreditation obtained by bribery? Retired detective Brian R. Breen was appointed by the court to assist the defence as an investigator. In his report to the court, Breen stated that he had visited Liberia and personally interviewed those alleged to have accepted bribes.

Throughout this case, a significant issue is whether the defendants in this case bribed foreign officials to obtain accreditation. The issue was so central to the case that we spent a great deal of time investigating it. Depositions of the relevant officials were authorized to be conducted in Liberia and would have been accomplished had this matter proceeded to trial. I was authorized to visit Liberia and in so doing I interviewed several former high-ranking Liberian government officials with whom these defendants transacted business. Those persons were Associate Justice of the Liberian Supreme Court, Kabineh Ja’neh, former ambassador Prince Porte, former Ambassador-in-Charge Abdulah Dunbar, and former Minister of Education Isaac Roland. All were confronted with the allegations made by Richard Novak that he bribed them and that are repeated without qualification in the [pre-sentence report]. All four of these men emphatically denied that they received bribes. All four readily acknowledged that they had accepted money from these defendants. However, all four explained clearly that these funds represented payments for services rendered.

It seems likely that, had the Liberian officials given evidence and the case proceeded to trial, there would have been no basis for the court to have concluded that they had been bribed. The testimony to the contrary from Richard Novak, as will be discussed below, was the testimony of a terrified and threatened man desperate to keep himself and his wife out of jail.

It is also worth emphasising that the sole way of legitimately transacting business in Liberia at this period in time was actually simply to pay cash to individuals in return for their professional services and assistance. Moreover, at a point where Liberian government officials were working without pay, it was expected that when they received money for services that they would use some of this to support themselves and their families. As Abdulah Dunbar would say in his response to the allegations, including those arising from a meeting with Novak and US Secret Service undercover agents, “we also used our good offices to negotiate with investors, and traveled with them to Liberia, to scout out and establish businesses in our country…there is a dire need for investors to go and help in rebuilding our country in all aspects.”

>>Statement of Abdulah K. Dunbar, 22 August 2005
>>Declaration of Brian R. Breen, 5 June 2008

7. Some further aspects

Dixie Randock possessed very significant drive and ambition. Once SRU had become financially successful, she wanted to make it even bigger, targeting the corporate education fund at Chrysler in particular. She approached the operation of SRU as if it were a trade school. It was brash and unashamed in selling its products, and marketed them both directly and successfully in a way that was not usually associated with the refined, middle class world of universities and degrees. There was an emphasis throughout on the ease of the process, the likelihood that many adults would qualify based on what they already knew, and the utility of the degrees in employment. It is notable that in the post-SRU era, this marketing style has come to be more visible within mainstream academia.

The position that was taken by SRU was that printing degree documents, maintaining websites, and conducting experiential assessments, were merely outsourced functions. On paper, there was nothing necessarily unreasonable in a Liberian online university employing a printer or academic staff in the USA, or basing its servers there. Certainly, Liberia had no problem with it. Nor did it obviously contravene any law in Washington or Idaho, where these resources were based. It was difficult to see that these things made SRU into an American university rather than a Liberian one.

It is interesting to note that during the First Liberian Civil War from 1989 to 1996, Cuttington University was looted and its buildings damaged. The campus was used as a training facility for militias. As a result, from 1990 to 1997, the school operated only at an office in the US state of Virginia. There was therefore precedent for the removal of a Liberian university to the USA under conditions of war. That removal did not make Cuttington cease to be a Liberian university, nor become a US university, and as a purely brick and mortar institution, these aspects were of greater significance for Cuttington than for an online entity.

Conceivably, since it was accredited in Liberia, SRU could have gone through the state licensing process for foreign-accredited universities in one or more states of the USA and then operated there without obvious difficulty. However, this would have meant that it would have become an onshore entity for tax purposes rather than remaining a non-US tax concern.

It is not difficult to see a strong theme of social class running through the SRU case. Dixie Randock and her associates were outsiders to the academic establishment, and Dixie had made her own money as a successful entrepreneur. Armed with the successful techniques that had built a trade school, they gatecrashed into academia, which remains one of the greatest middle-class strongholds. Criticism of SRU was predominately from the elitist middle-class; from academia and its representatives who were well-established inside the system and were easily able to identify SRU and its people as an out-group to be demonized and ridiculed for their comparative lack of sophistication. The media that denounced SRU was the mouthpiece for middle-class outrage, taking the side throughout of the establishment. Alan Contreras referred to the principals of SRU as “trailer-park hounds”(13).

For Dixie to be running a university with profit as a main objective was seen as anathema. Yet the mainstream is not always so shy of getting its hands dirty. University education is a business like any other, with billions at stake, and some exceptionally aggressive for-profit players within the mainstream. When they saw SRU trespassing on their turf, they determined to finish it once and for all.

8. The aftermath

In 2005, US Secret Service agents using false names and identities obtained degrees from James Monroe University, in one case following examination and in two cases on the basis of experiential assessment. The processes as described by them appear to have followed SRU’s published descriptions. They did not simply buy degrees outright, and indeed a request for a degree in chemical engineering was refused. However, the weakness of SRU’s systems was exposed. SRU failed to verify the identity of candidates and the truthfulness of their claims, and also, in the examination case, gave an award for a very low percentage pass. In addition, the agents attended meetings with Novak in which Novak made a series of highly compromising statements concerning tax evasion and other matters.

The eventual indictment, which was filed on 5 October 2005, seemed to me to contain much that was readily contestable and I suspected that the prosecution would find it difficult to obtain a conviction at trial. Indictments tend to take an extreme view of the case at hand, in the expectation that some at least of what is alleged will subsequently stick. The SRU indictment was extraordinary because it essentially presented the proposition that anything done by SRU in the name of academia that did not conform to the most conservative rules and norms of the accreditation cartel was thereby to be deemed fraudulent. Such an approach would outlaw any substantial experimentation or non-traditional offering within education. It was deeply ironic that Gollin’s earlier protests against his censorship by UIUC were in the name of academic freedom, whereas the indictment made it clear that for SRU, academic freedom was non-existent. In short, any school that attempted to break the mould of the norms of university education, or to contract with “unsophisticated consumers”, was to be deemed a diploma mill and condemned accordingly.

According to the government case, the Randocks’ degree-granting entities had issued 10,815 degrees to 9,612 recipients in 131 countries. They calculated the income from this as being some US$7,369,907.

It was also significant that it was not alleged that SRU had broken any law governing the operation of educational institutions in the USA. The states of Washington and Idaho, at the time of SRU’s operation there, did not prevent universities with foreign accreditation, or indeed no accreditation, from carrying out some or all of their functions within certain legal boundaries. There were no laws against granting degrees on the basis of the assessment of experiential learning either.

Count one against the defendants consisted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Count two consisted of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. The indictment alleged that there had never been any Liberian accreditation; that SRU had never been a Liberian school, and that consumers had simply been defrauded into believing otherwise.

The United States system of justice relies on plea bargaining, and that system in turn encourages the filing of as many charges as possible against the accused in the awareness that some can then be used as bargaining collateral. Novak and another defendant pleaded guilty early, offered full assistance with the prosecution, and served no jail time. A further defendant did similarly at a later stage of the process and received a reduced sentence. The Randocks, however, were advised that they could be facing up to thirty years imprisonment.

Novak’s testimony was key to the prosecution case. When I had spoken to Novak in July 2003, he had impressed me as relaxed and competent, at home in his role dealing with members of the Liberian government and fully supportive and knowledgeable about SRU and its processes. The Novak that came through in the testimony was a very different character. In the USSS raids on 11 August, Novak and his wife, who has a serious long-term health condition and is cared for by her husband, had their house stormed by around thirty SWAT operatives. They were held at gunpoint and Novak was made to telephone Dixie with a gun to his head in the hope that this would produce incriminating evidence. None was forthcoming. However, Novak was the only one of the defendants to have substantially incriminated himself through his exchanges with Secret Service agents. In March 2006, additional charges that he had bribed foreign officials were brought against him. Now he was potentially facing even more jail time than the Randocks.

Novak was arguably the most vulnerable of the defendants and it is not difficult to imagine the psychological pressure put on him, particularly with respect to his wife, who had been an advisor for some of the degree candidates. He was offered a deal whereby if he provided substantial assistance to the government, he would stay out of jail. His wife was also kept out of things. Not only did he sing like a canary, he sang to the prosecution’s tune. His admissions in testimony seemed to be directly inspired by a wish to substantiate the allegations of the indictment. It seems likely, though, that they were the actions of a terrified man placed under unbearable stress.

Nevertheless, the Randocks held out. With all their assets sequestered as part of the investigation, they could not put together the legal team they would ideally have wished for, who would in their view have been able to have the case thrown out at the first court appearance. The team they did obtain lost interest in defending them when the money ran out. Before then, Dixie had noticed some worrying aspects. The defence team appeared to be very close pals with the prosecutors. They played hockey and drank together, and went to the Spokane Club for lunch together almost every day. She recalls, “We had no prior experience with this kind of situation, so even though it seemed strange and made us uncomfortable, we didn’t say much for fear it may alienate our own attorneys. When we did mention our feelings about the palling around with the other side, we were pretty much treated as though we knew nothing, and all this was ‘normal’.”

Of greater concern was the unavailability of crucial defence evidence, “When we requested documents, the feds always (every single time) told us “We can’t find this, or there is nothing like that here.” We had no way to prove anything because even the computers were taken and everyone who possibly could help us was afraid to get involved.”

The judge, Hon. Lonny R. Suko, had significant involvement with the academic establishment. He was a member of the Advisory Council of the College of Liberal Arts at Washington State University and also served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the WSU Foundation(14). WSU also recorded Judge Suko and his wife as significant donors(15). Dixie recounts, “I asked [my attorney] to ask for a recusal, but he said “Oh, I think he can be fair.” I surely didn’t think so, and it was apparent in every motion.” Read correctly, the position was simple; the judge was aligned with the forces of mainstream academia that were ranged against SRU.

The defendants were alleged to have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying the Liberian Ministry of Education US$4,000 to facilitate accreditation. The fee for accreditation had actually been a mere US$300; most of the remainder of the money had been spent on the purchase of the Liberian school and paying its back taxes. However, the FCPA does not apply to any “facilitating or expediting payment” the purpose of which is to expedite or secure the performance of a “routine governmental action,” i.e., “greasing” the local officials. What constitutes routine governmental action is described in “Investor bulletin” (n.d.)(16). Fox (2011)(17) explains some of the factors the Department of Justice will look at when reviewing a company’s FCPA compliance. Here is the pertinent point: bribe size is typically determined as a percentage of the value of the contract or the advantage itself. Bribes paid in transnational business may range from 5 to 25 percent or more, although the average benefit-bribe ratio calculated for the 18 FCPA cases studied was 20 percent. The bribes allegedly paid by SRU in Liberia had a benefit-bribe ratio calculated at 1.9 percent, the lowest of those studied (Manacorda, Centonze & Forti, 2014, p. 210)(18).  SRU was clearly an “outlier,” to say the least. This seems like a strong indicator that the prosecution was actually politically motivated.

Another pillar of the prosecution case was the alleged risk that terrorists might use a SRU degree to immigrate to the USA. But this again was based on the flimsiest of evidence. Breen’s declaration also addressed this, “It is implied that the activities of these defendants allowed the issuance of inappropriate H-1B visas to foreign “victims”. Indeed the indictment alleges as much. However, there is no evidence provided in the discovery that more than one H-1B visa was issued to any of the persons who purchased degrees from these defendants.” The one case was not a terrorist, but an undercover US Secret Service agent posing as a man from Syria.

>>Declaration of Brian R. Breen, 5 June 2008

Much of the pre-trial argument also centred on seizures by US Secret Service Agents that were made contrary to the terms of the warrant and policy. This was argued vigorously by the defence but was ultimately overruled by the judge. It seemed to me, however, that this aspect would have provided a key basis for an appeal had the case proceeded. According to Dixie, “Even though the feds did break into our Idaho office, they said a door “just popped open” and of course the judge believed this. Even our attorneys admitted had it been ANY other judge it would have thrown out.”

Dixie and Steve both testified as part of the pre-trial hearings. Dixie recalls, “We never once blamed each other in any way, nor did it cause us any marital problems and never has to this day.”

Some key points were won by the defence in the pre-trial process. The most important of these was in February 2008, when the judge agreed to preserve the testimony of the Liberian government officials by deposition where necessary. The prosecution had opposed this strongly, aware that if it went ahead, it would reveal the role of the US government in pressurizing the Liberians to withdraw SRU’s accreditation. Not only that, it would show the majority of Novak’s testimony to have been false. Surprisingly, Dixie has said that her attorneys did not make her aware of this development.

Immediately afterwards, the defence then moved for further discovery, inter alia requiring the government to reveal any promises made or “deals” with government witnesses, and the identities of confidential informants. A further item read, “It is requested that the United States state whether the defendant was subject to any electronic surveillance by George Gollin or any other private person or entity, and, if so, set forth in detail the circumstances to such surveillance.”

The next move was what one would expect from a prosecution on the ropes. In March 2008, the Randocks were offered a deal; if they agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, the money laundering charges would be dropped and they would serve three years imprisonment, either in jail or in home confinement. Dixie said,

We were told we have 30 minutes to accept the plea deal. It was pretty much like you see in horrible movies of people being terrified and extremely pressured, even threatened if we didn’t take the deal. We absolutely knew we were guilty of nothing. We broke no laws. How can anyone be convicted for doing something that was not illegal?

But, the attorneys told us that a jury would convict us because we made a lot of money, and we were well known successful businesspeople before this – and there was jealousy.

Both Dixie and Steve Randock duly served three years in jail plus three years supervision. After three long years of pre-trial argument and hearings it was all over. There was no trial, and consequently no argument was heard on some of the most important aspects of the case. The guilty pleas to the wording of the indictment offered the academic establishment everything it could have wanted in the way of an outcome. It also offered a clear opportunity for the politicization of the whole case and the demonization of SRU’s graduates and faculty.

The Randocks were not ordered to pay any restitution to their victims. Indeed, there were no “victims” other than the education establishment. That is not to say that every graduate was satisfied, but rather that the source of their dissatisfaction did not properly rest with SRU. Brian R. Breen’s declaration of 5 June 2008 states that the US government conducted national advertising to search for “victims” of the defendants, providing a toll-free number, “Of the thousands of alleged degree holders, the government received  approximately only 18 calls. The majority of these calls were the result of the government specifically and individually contacting “victims” or the owners of affiliate schools and instructing them to call or have their clients call the 1-800 number.” Dixie says, “I loved our clients, many became good friends, and all that I ever had contact with were extremely happy.” Legally, the terms and conditions accepted by clients when they entered into a relationship with SRU had been very clear. There was no scope for clients to misunderstand either the process or the resulting award.

I was not contacted at any stage of the investigatory or pre-trial process by any authority, and did not have contact with any of the defendants at that time. Had I been contacted, I would have co-operated fully with any investigation and offered any assistance that I could have provided. None of the vast number of court papers that I have seen identify me or any of my business concerns, which were always fully separate from those of SRU. Nevertheless, it is clear that certain individuals who are opposed to my academic and political work and resentful of my success have sought to make capital out of the SRU case. They cannot do so through anything other than the lies, smears and personal attacks that have been the stock-in-trade of the arguments surrounding SRU from their outset.

My business partner Dr Sheila Danzig – our business relationship began in 2005, after SRU had closed – had been involved in evaluating SRU degrees in her capacity as an evaluator of foreign credentials. She used the registered business name Liz Ross for this work. She was interviewed as part of the investigation, and fully exonerated from any wrongdoing. No charges were ever brought against her or anyone else who had been involved in her business.

9. Conclusions

The entire case gives rise to major concerns. It seems clear that the US Government contrived to persuade Liberia to declare SRU’s accreditation “null and void”. Once this had been done, they were able to bring fraud charges against the defendants on the grounds that they never had the accreditation that they had claimed. Lastly, they would see that the case was tried before a judge who was sitting on the board of trustees of one of SRU’s competitors. Because there was no trial, incidentally, the 300+ US Federal government employees who held SRU degrees were allowed to sweep the whole episode quietly under the carpet.

The result cannot have been what those supporting the prosecution had hoped for. Gollin’s book about the SRU case, which has yet to appear, is apparently entitled “A Dream of Serpents”. According to the astrologers of The Times of India, to dream of serpents denotes disappointments in the future(19). Federal lawmakers did agree to write a definition of a diploma mill into statute (and by the evidence above, SRU did not qualify), but they saw the cartel’s other protectionist efforts for what they were, and rejected them wholesale. For those who had wanted to make major capital out of SRU, the results can only have been disappointing.

Gollin’s account of the case in a chapter of a book by Bear and Ezell makes for interesting reading. Gollin’s approach is that of the research scientist. His writing is hugely detailed, immaculately referenced and constructed with logic. Its Achilles heel is that it offers little in the way of a humane perspective. The defendants are presented as one-dimensional villains with their every flaw or bad decision magnified. There is no insight into their complex motivations and no empathy. The result is simply a polemic that reflects Gollin’s own strong convictions and his unshakeable belief that he was morally in the right throughout. There is no attempt to address the topics of non-traditional education, experiential credit, or the reasons why market-driven or democratic reforms of the educational establishment might be advanced.

As a tenured professor in the hard sciences at a leading mainstream university, Gollin is a prime example of those who benefit from the protection of the academic status quo. As a graduate of Harvard and Princeton, which are both academically and socially elite institutions, he is also proof that the most vociferous criticism of SRU was class-based, consisting of an academic ruling class outraged by blue-collar upstarts on “their” turf.

The politicization of the case was nowhere more clear than in the statement by Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, who stated regarding the SRU case, “People who buy diplomas from diploma mills are not victims; they are co-conspirators.”(20)

This article presents a different view. I believe that I have shown that, (a) on the evidence that was available to the public prior to 22 July 2004, that it was wholly reasonable for an inquirer to conclude that SRU was accredited by the Liberian government, and even after that date it was still “recognized”; and (b) that most of those who graduated from Saint Regis University went through processes that were radical and academically unorthodox, but nevertheless were genuine and legitimate by the standards of progressive non-traditional education that SRU espoused. Lastly, I have shown that there is good reason to believe that the problems SRU experienced with regard to its accreditation were the result of pressure on Liberia from the US government.

In 2008, a list of some 9,612 individuals was leaked on condition of anonymity by a state government official to the press. This list was then published by at least one newpaper with the assertion that the individuals listed had “bought” a degree from Saint Regis University. However, as reported by the Washington Post, “Names on the list might include some people who only inquired”(20). A further clarification was published excluding the 27 names of those who had purchased degrees as part of the criminal investigation or otherwise to assist the US authorities. Examination of the list also shows that some of the information on it regarding degrees apparently issued and the names of those concerned is manifestly inaccurate.

The list alleges that I was awarded a PhD by SRU. I was never awarded a PhD by SRU, nor did I ever inquire about receiving one. On the contrary, I received the degree of Doctor of Education from SRU on 3 July 2003. To earn the degree, which I pursued purely from personal interest, I submitted a substantial portfolio of work relating to my teaching career, including several book-length pedagogical guides. This was then assessed through peer evaluation, and I also had a substantial input in the process through self-evaluation to prepare the transcripts. Anyone who alleges that I – or many others on the list – knowingly “bought” a degree does so falsely and commits libel. I remain of the view that I earned a real and meaningful degree from a university fully accredited by the Government of Liberia through a progressive, non-traditional (and inevitably controversial) educational process. It was a process that I believe in and that I continue to support.

It’s not a PhD

Some six years later, I would earn a second Doctor of Education degree in a different concentration from a further government-accredited university via distance learning, this time in a much more conventionally-structured programme.

I have consistently advocated for non-traditional distance education for more than twenty years, and in the course of this have exchanged opinions with many who have been involved in non-traditional education and distance learning both as owners of schools, faculty and students. In my professional practice, I have provided expert opinion on both traditional and non-traditional credentials from all over the world. I have founded and administered several non-traditional schools myself, and served on the faculties and boards of others. In my exploration of distance education, I have sought quality and distinctive provision among schools that are not part of the mainstream sector, and on quite a few occasions I have found it. At the time that SRU was operating, I served as head of a private religious school and a non-traditional university. I do not regret my support for SRU. I have known schools with problems similar to SRU overcome those problems and turn around with the right management. I have also known schools that today are very much an established part of the educational mainstream that did not look so very different from SRU during the 1980s and 1990s. It is a tragedy that SRU’s potential was never truly realized.

How then should the graduates of SRU be treated? Since their degree requirements were completely individualized, they must be taken on a case by case basis. As discussed above, all SRU’s degrees so far as can be established were from an institution accredited and/or recognized in Liberia, and so they hold governmentally recognized degrees. Some presented dissertations and coursework, which were sometimes considerable, to earn them. Some combined credits from previous formal studies. Others had experiential learning that legitimately qualified them for the degrees they were awarded. However they earned their degrees, these graduates deserve recognition for their achievements rather than the hostile treatment they have received at the hands of the media, the education establishment, and their allies.


Websites at,, and other URLs associated with SRU were consulted via a collection of saved webpages made in 2003-04 and the Internet Wayback Machine.

Court documentation regarding the SRU case was consulted via In addition, much court documentation and other useful information can be found at the website of Dr George Gollin at

Interviews were conducted electronically with Mrs Dixie Ellen Randock on the record, and with other sources off the record.

(1) Bear, John B. and Mariah P, Bears’ Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, 14th ed, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 2001, p. 45.
(2) College president among those with questionable degree, Associated Press, 26 March 2004.
(3) In brief: Not everybody on the list bought degrees, Spokesman Review, 30 July 2008.
(4) Jones, Mohamedu F., Who is the Lawful Chargé d’Affaires at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC? in The Perspective, Atlanta, GA., 12 December 2003.
(5) Andrea L. Foster, U. of Illinois Administrators Ask Professor to Remove Web Site About Diploma Mills, Chronicle of Higher Education, 13 October 2003.
(6) Gollin, George D., “Burning St Regis” in Bear, John B., and Ezell, Allen, “Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas“, New York, Prometheus Books, 2012.
(7) Wilson, John K. Fear of a Website at UIUC in Illinois Academe, Fall 2003. Retrieved from
(8) Wolman, David FraudU: Toppling a Bogus-Diploma Empire in Wired, 21 December 2009. Retrieved from
(11) Drews, Elizabeth Monroe Quality is Next, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1960.
(14) retrieved August 2008.
(15) retrieved August 2008.
(16) Investor bulletin: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act–prohibition of the payment of bribes to foreign officials.  (n.d.).  Securities and Exchange Commission.  Retrieved from
(17) Fox, T.  When does a grease payment become a bribe under the FCPA?  FCPA Compliance & Ethics, 2 February 2011.  Retrieved from
(18) Manacorda, S., Centonze, F., & Forti, G. (Eds.).  Preventing corporate corruption: The anti-bribery compliance model. 2014, New York: Springer.
(19) Dr Gollin explains that his inspiration for the title was, in fact, Arthurian legend at
(20) Strauss, Valerie, Hundreds linked to diploma mill, The Washington Post, 31 July 2008.

My education: St Ephrem’s Institute of Eastern Church Studies

St Ephrem’s Institute of Eastern Church Studies was established in 1974 as the Scandinavian extension of the People’s University of the Americas. For much of its history, it was closely associated with the Scandinavian representation (Svea Synod) of the Apostolic Episcopal Church and with the American World Patriarchs; like those communions, its character was ecumenical.

The People’s University of the Americas (PUA) was founded in San Juan, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, in 1967 (and incorporated as a non-profit educational institution there in 1973) by Archbishop Uladyslau Ryzy-Ryski (1925-78), Chancellor to the Holy Orthodox Catholic Patriarchate of America and first Patriarch of the American World Patriarchs (as Patriarch Uladyslau I). At its inception, PUA opened with two schools: the Faculty of Theology & Canonic Law and the Faculty of Philosophy & Literature. Further faculties in American History and Government, Law, and Naturopathy were added during the 1980s and 1990s.

Patriarch Uladyslau addresses the graduating class at the People’s University of the Americas, 1975

The University offered degrees at bachelor, master and doctorate levels. Instruction was offered on campuses in Ponce, Cayey and El Verde, with a particular social emphasis dedicated to the education of the poor. Working adults were catered for through evening classes. The University took a position that it was opposed to distance learning and all its academic activity took place on campus. In 1989, the United States Attorney-General issued a letter recognizing PUA as an established institution of learning recognized as such by a qualified state agency. With the turn of the century the construction of a new campus in Ponce was announced.

PUA applied for regional accreditation in the United States in 2004 and suspended enrolments pending the outcome of this process. During the same year, the University was acquired by the National Association for Foreign Attorneys in Florida and renamed UNPAM University. The University continues to exist today but no longer grants degrees.

In Scandinavia, St Ephrem’s Institute was under the direction of Archbishop Professor Bertil Persson, who was both a presbyter in the Church of Sweden and a bishop in the Apostolic Episcopal Church (which was in intercommunion with the American World Patriarchs). As such, it served primarily as a means of promulgating research and scholarly publications, focusing on the principal areas of church history and the Aramaic language. In addition, it was the repository for a substantial archive of records and information concerning the smaller independent churches, much of which would eventually be consolidated in Independent Bishops: An International Directory (Persson, Bertil; Bain, Alan; Ward, Gary L.; preface by Melton, J. Gordon; Detroit, Apogee Books, 1990), which was produced with the Institute for the Study of American Religion at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

St Ephrem’s Institute functioned both in Sweden and in Norway, where its degrees were awarded principally to churchmen and theological scholars. The degrees were generally awarded by Diploma, which meant that, although they were full earned degrees, they were awarded based on the Institute’s assessment of the work and standing of the graduate rather than after examination or supplication.

The Honorary Fellows of St Ephrem’s Institute included HH Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate; Mt Revd Mar Aprem, Metropolitan of the Church of the East; HH Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate; and HB Patriarch Maximos V Hakim of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. There was also a distinguished board of Research Professors.

I was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by St Ephrem’s Institute in 2008, the year in which I was also appointed as a bishop in the Apostolic Episcopal Church. As will be seen from the diploma below, the basis for the award was “his Outstanding Works on Church History”. My work in that area has concentrated on a continuation and expansion of topics that in some cases were previously also the subject of publications of the Institute, particularly the histories of the smaller independent churches and the biographies and ministries of their clergy. Subsequently, I would publish my biographies of ecclesiastical pioneers Arnold Harris Mathew and Joseph René Vilatte.

The death of the Institute’s Vice-President in 2008 led me to understand that mine would be the final degree of St Ephrem’s Institute to be awarded.

In India, meanwhile, an institution founded under the inspiration of St Ephrem’s Institute has outlived its European progenitor. St Ephrem’s Ecumenical Research Institute (SEERI), which is situated in Kottayam, Kerala, and affiliated as a research centre to the Mahatma Gandhi University, was inaugurated on 14 September 1985 by Mar Thoma Mathews I, Catholicos of the Orthodox Syrian Church and an ecumenical collaborator of Archbishop Persson. It is a centre for the study of the Syriac language and cognate subjects.

Work in education: Marquess College, London and Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd.

In 2005, I sought to consolidate the various strands of my educational work by forming a private limited company in the UK called Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd. This was incorporated in England and Wales on 13 July 2005 with company registration number 05507264. I was the sole director of the company.

The first work that the company undertook was educational consultancy with respect to the equivalency of international credentials I had begun to work remotely online as a senior consultant and expert on international credentials for several foreign credential evaluation agencies in the United States, where we served clients in the fields of educational admissions, employment and immigration. Through Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., I provided several hundred expert opinions on credentials and their equivalencies, advised extensively on the handling of complex immigration matters involving credentials, and also undertook research in this area leading to industry publications. Working in a small team, I also had responsibility for the online training and mentoring of staff who were new to the area of foreign credential evaluation.

In addition to this, the company undertook several projects concerned with the provision of distance and blended education. Marquess College, London (MCL), was established as a division of the company and focused upon offering qualifications based on the mentored assessment of experiential learning through portfolio, coursework and dissertation methods. It defined its mission as “to be a leading resource for the development of professional competencies worldwide and to serve those who will be the leaders of tomorrow.” Before long it had attracted an excellent and diverse faculty, a number of whom who were experienced in alternative and nontraditional education and advocates for its merits.

MCL was founded with the awareness that today’s professionals seek an educational solution that is flexible, responsive and that embodies the concepts of modern professional life. The MCL learning solution is designed to add value, and to empower decision-makers so that their leadership is informed by an international outlook. Programs are offered both on campus, and through distance learning, with the latter route requiring no residency at any time. The concept of mentorship is key throughout.

Our programs have been designed with key leadership objectives in mind, with input from both educators and practitioners. As a participant, you will benefit from an advanced and forward-looking approach to education, and prepare to meet the challenges of twenty-first century professional life. The programs are strongly practical and vocational in nature. They apply a professional model to education, not an academic model to professional life.

Following the practice of other comparable career institutes and similar schools, we have routes to our awards both for those who hold existing formal post-secondary qualifications, and for those who do not, but can show us that their experience and background means they are likely to succeed on the program.

MCL awards stand in a long tradition of self-directed independent education. Although we impose no philosophy on the candidate, the ideas of educationalists such as Steiner, Montessori and particularly Karl Popper have influenced the programs and structure of the College. The emphasis is on empowering the adult as an active learner under mentorship rather than a passive learner under instruction.” (Marquess College, London, website)

In order to offer programmes on campus, MCL entered into a partnership with St George’s College, London, which had campus premises in Marylebone, whereby St George’s became an accredited campus centre for MCL programs. The academic staff of St George’s College liaised closely with MCL management with all programmes subject to external examination as an integral feature.

Distance and blended learning programmes were designed in particular so that they could be integrated into the professional workplace. The programmes could be based entirely around a particular company, with projects based on working life and emphasis on analytical, interpersonal and integrative competencies. Focus was possible on both the individual and the individual as part of a team. The structure of the programme drew on best practice in progressive institutions in Britain, Europe and the USA to create a holistic – yet easily understood – route to the assessment of professional competencies in practical terms. The business focus led to the development of a sister organization to MCL, the London Academy of Professional Management, which was designed as a professional organization that offered an assessed membership based on prior experience and learning.

Marquess College, London, was registered on the Department for Education and Skills Register of Learning Providers with provider number 10009520. In order to provide quality assurance for its distance learning programmes, Marquess College, London, became an associate member of the British Learning Association, which meant that it was bound by the BLA’s Code of Conduct for the provision of educational programmes to which students could have recourse if necessary.

Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., also sought and obtained certification of its quality assurance systems following assessment by the independent standardizing body International Charter,  with respect to their standard IC9200 for organizations.

The programmes of MCL were listed in LearnDirect, the UK national learning directory, and by Hobsons/Trotman Information Services, then the most comprehensive database of further, undergraduate and postgraduate courses and institution information, covering the UK and Eire. In addition, MCL became a member of the Alternative Education Resource Organization, a non-profit organization in New York, USA, founded in 1989 in order to advance learner-centred approaches to education. AERO was considered at that time by many to be the primary hub of communications and support for educational alternatives around the world.

In addition, discussions were opened with several recognized university-level institutions, one in Australia and another in Denmark, who agreed to recognize MCL diplomas for credit towards their degrees by distance learning. Several evaluators of foreign credentials in the USA recognized MCL diplomas as being of a standard equivalent to recognized degrees.

While MCL was quickly recognised as one of the first educational institutions to offer prior learning assessment to working professionals, it also became a focus for online controversy, much of which reflected the vested interests of the educational establishment in stifling any potentially disruptive innovation outside it. This took the form of a smear campaign consisting largely of personal attacks and inaccurate statements. In a newsletter to faculty and students, I wrote the following, “What we are aiming to achieve at MCL is highly innovative and something of a challenge to the educational establishment. The idea of taking power from the educational institution and giving it to students remains revolutionary today, despite many significant precedents, as does running education on an enlightened business model. I hope that you will take pride in your association with an educational experiment that could well go on to have widespread influence for the better. In the words of Pericles, “The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom is Courage.”

In an unrelated development, our partner St George’s College, London, changed ownership in March 2006, and left the Marylebone campus. This brought about the end of our working partnership and left us without a campus.

In general, the calibre of applicants and graduates of MCL was high, but their numbers were always small. The market at that time was seeking either degree programmes, which we were not legally able to offer, or short courses, and our diplomas and certificates fell somewhere between the two. On recommendation from a faculty advisor, we increased the number of short courses on offer and placed less emphasis on the APEL diploma programmes. However, this strategy had the opposite effect from that intended and reduced applications still further.

Since 2003, work had also been progressing on what would become European-American University, which would in June 2007 obtain overseas degree-granting authority in the Commonwealth of Dominica, and it was always planned that there would be an eventual synchronization of institutions in consequence of this anticipated development.

The EAU project had several different working names during its pre-launch period, one of which was Marquess University (under which name it was briefly incorporated as a private international university in Panama in 2005). While at one point a draft of a website for Marquess University was accidentally uploaded to the internet, it was never open to the public and did not recruit or graduate any students. Nor was it organizationally connected with MCL except in terms of sharing faculty and management. Rather, it had been intended that Marquess University would eventually appoint Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., as its British agent to offer its programmes in the UK. However, this did not in the event happen.

Reflecting the developments with MCL, it was decided in September 2006 to refocus energies upon the EAU project, and most of the work that had been planned for MCL was consequently diverted pending the launch of EAU to the public later in 2007.

With respect to the MCL organization itself, I consequently undertook a major revision that relaunched it in September 2006 as a specialist rather than generalist college devoted to theology and church music called St Simon’s College, London. This preserved much of the assessment methodology and educational principles of MCL, but in a more restricted context that was in keeping with my ministerial work of the time. A number of short courses in Liberal Christian Theology and Ministry were added to the programmes being offered. St. Simon’s College served as the seminary for The Independent Old Catholic Church of the Utrecht Succession and The Liberal Rite which were the denominations within which my ministry was at that time carried out.

With the launch of the educational programmes of European-American University to the public in late 2007, St. Simon’s College, London, and its predecessor Marquess College, London, ceased their independent existence and were absorbed into the University. Their graduates continue to be verifiable through the University today. For some time, I continued my credential-related work through Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., but in late 2009 I transferred this elsewhere.

On 26 January 2010, Marquess Educational Consultants, Ltd., was dissolved. The company was in good standing at the time of its dissolution and had settled all debts and ceased trading before the dissolution process was started.


Marquess College, London, the London Academy of Professional Management and St. Simon’s College, London, were defined as colleges of further education and awarded certificates and diplomas under English law. They did not offer degree awards since they did not have the necessary legal powers to do so, although some of the diploma and certificate awards that were offered were examined at an advanced level corresponding to that of undergraduate and postgraduate awards.

My education: Certificate in Managing People/Managing Others from INSEAD

In 2006, I took a short online distance learning course entitled Managing People/Managing Others from the leading French business school INSEAD. I was both interested in the course content and also curious to establish how an elite school approached the delivery of distance education. The course was outstanding in both content and delivery. It was both informative and extensively supported by course documentation, and I felt I gained a lot from it.