C AMBODIA's co-prime ministers and three other officials have proudly received
honorary doctorate degrees from an American "university" which is not accredited
in the United States.
The Southern California University for
Professional Studies staged two awards ceremonies on March 2 and 3 as a public
relations scheme to drum up business, school officials told the Post.
"We are hoping to set up a relationship with the government where they
would like to invite us to offer our program and that is why we recognized these
government officials," said Donald Hecht, president of the school.
admitted his school, headquartered in Santa Ana, is not an accredited university
in the US.
Using the slogan "All the world is our campus," the school
offers correspondence courses in business administration, psychology, technical
management and law. Its bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees are not
recognized by many traditional universities or the Distance Learning Association
of America, admitted Hecht.
He said his school, founded in 1978, is
recognized by the Council for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education of
the State of California.
The school stepped up its international search
for students six months ago, said Patrick Doan, who runs its international
Doan said he had first traveled to Vietnam to promote the
school but the government there was not receptive, so he and Hecht moved on to
Cambodia, where officials were more than happy to receive them.
you' seems like such a short, simple word to express our sincere appreciation
for such an honor that you have chosen to bestow on HE Samdech Hun Sen and
myself, but I know of no better word to describe our most profound satisfaction
and appreciation for this distinction," said First Prime Minister Norodom
Ranariddh at a lavish ceremony March 2 at Chamkarmon Palace.
behalf of himself and the Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, Prince Ranariddh
described the doctorate degrees as "special" and said they "will serve to remind
us at all times, not only to be proud of it, but to use logical and ethical
thinking in our conduct as leaders."
"We believe that holding this degree
is not only an honor to HE Samdech Hun Sen and myself, but also an honor to the
courage and sacrifice of the Cambodian people," Ranariddh said.
day, Doan described the decision to grant the honorary degrees as "something
like a promotion."
"But these people deserve to get an honorary degree
because they have rich experience," Doan said after a ceremony at the Cambodian
Development Council headquarters to grant degrees to MP Ouk Rabun, chair of the
finance and banking commission; Minister of Planning Chean Chan To and Kun Thy
Da, a professor of economics and an official at the Ministry of Economy and
The campaign caused a flurry of interest among senior civil
servants and even one cabinet minister reportedly enrolling.
By the time
Hecht left town on March 5, he had 15 application forms in his briefcase - along
with cheques for the $100 registration fee. One applicant paid the full amount -
$3,500 - for a Masters degree.
One Khmer civil servant told the Post that
the fact Prince Ranariddh had accepted the degree prompted him and many of his
colleagues to consider enrolling.
"After all, it's an American
university - much better than a Vietnamese university."
A US Embassy
official said that the doctorate degrees could not be compared with those issued
by other US universities.
He said: "We were surprised after we received
the announcement about the graduation."
However, Hecht insisted that the
quality of his school's courses is equal or better than other American
universities, because his students get individual attention of professors
through computer, fax and telephone.
"The only thing that's different is
our mode of delivery."
Asked about entry requirements, Hecht said: "I
would prefer they speak some English, but I'm not going to downgrade them
because they have wrong punctuation or syntax... I want ideas. They will be
graded on content, not necessarily on their English."
Doan - whose three
sons attend California State University rather than his own - said he plans to
recruit qualified Khmer instructors with overseas degrees, who could tutor
potential students for the American school.
"We will pay them cheaper
than American professors, but they understand the country and the people
The ceremonies were carried off with huge fanfare and celebration.
Caps and gowns were flown in from the US. The recipients were given flowers,
champange and lined up with school officials for photos. Afterwards they were
treated to a huge banquet and entertained by a live band, which the school did
not pay for.
Representing the school on the podium stood Hecht and three
other Americans: Hecht's son Mark and two friends from the US who do not work as
faculty at the school.
"At a ceremony for an American university, we
wanted to have white faces there," said Doan, an American citizen of Vietnamese
At the end of the ceremony on March 2, the Post overheard chat
between co-Defense Minister Tea Chamrath and US Ambassador Charles Twining.
Chamrath asked Twining to help give more doctorate degrees to Cambodian army
officials, and Twining suggested that they should help him too - with human