It is time the government shut down postgraduate programs found to have produced fake PhDs. These shoddy programs allow students to obtain doctorates in less than a year, an absurdly speedy process compared to the normal time frame of at least three years.
A doctorate or a PhD is recognized as the highest academic degree. A PhD holder should have the competence to come up with a new perspective or discovery in their field of study. It is impossible to write a dissertation requirement for a doctoral degree without doing any original research that requires a major effort.
However, many regional officials can earn doctoral degrees in a matter of months by taking courses in universities across Jakarta, Surabaya or Bandung, which are usually obliged to facilitate their smooth graduation. In no time, doctoral titles appear before their names, which then get used for obtaining promotions. This academic fraud must be exposed.
Universities that provide slapdash doctoral programs use similar fraudulent methods. Lectures are squeezed to fit in a short or a distance learning course. Students are not required to have face-to-face meetings with their lecturers. Instead, lecturers can be dispatched to officials at high fees. Such classes were in fact banned in 1997 via the education ministry’s regulation regarding study programs outside the higher education institutions domicile, which requires educational institutions implementing the practice to obtain permits from the minister. Classes of a given university must take place on university premises.
The dissertation process is also made ridiculously easy, disregarding academic ethics. Between 2012 and 2016, Djaali, the dean of the Jakarta State University, handed out a total of 327 doctorates, meaning he had directed 65 doctoral students a year. A higher-education evaluation team from the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education Ministry even found a promoter in another institution who endorsed the graduation of 118 doctoral candidates throughout 2016. In other words: he helped produce a PhD every three days.
The quality of the candidates’ dissertations is also highly questionable, although a dissertation committee might pass them with cum laude or distinctions. Article 28 of the Higher Education Ministry’s Regulation No. 44/2015 limits the number of students of all levels for each mentor to 10 people. With such a load, a supervising professor is expected to be more selective and can promote only two to three new PhDs annually.
Meanwhile, many candidates obtain their dissertation material from the Internet using cut and paste techniques, often omitting the sources of their information in their papers. In doing so, these candidates effectively commit plagiarism. In some cases, they also hire ghostwriters to produce their dissertations.
To wit, thesis mills are booming. There are many agencies ready to churn out all kinds of dissertations for a price. However, presenting a fake dissertation is an academic crime. If proven guilty, the ministry should not only revoke the title but also hand out sanctions to responsible universities and promoters.
The more there are postgraduate programs that do not meet standard academic procedures, the faster Indonesia’s education quality will go into a downward spiral. Now is the time for the education ministry to intervene and regulate these instant doctoral programs.