U.N. Fired Staff Members With Academic Degrees From Diploma Mill

The United Nations fired a staff member in November because his academic degrees turned out to have been bought from a well-known Internet-based agency, not earned at an accredited university, a U.N. official said.

The incident was especially embarrassing because Trinity College and University is on a list of universities and colleges offering degrees for life experiences rather than formal education that had been circulated at the United Nations, U.N. staff members said Friday.

Jonathan Blankson, chief of the Human Resources Information Technology Section, had been suspended for 11 months before he was terminated, the staff members said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

A photocopy of his fake degrees said Trinity College and University had conferred a Bachelor of Science with honors in Computer Science on Jonathan Michael Philip Blankson on June 12, 1996 and a Master of Science in Computer Science and Information Management on May 21, 1997. It said he met all requirements of the Board of Regents and Examiners.

According to the Trinity College and University website, the master's degree cost 195 British pounds, about US$390 — and the bachelors degree with honors for just 150 pounds, about US$300. The website said the college "is an organization, registered in Dover, Delaware, and running its degree program from Spain."

U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Friday the the Joint Disciplinary Committee determined that a staff member — whom it did not identify — misrepresented his educational qualifications as being from a legitimate university, which "constituted serious misconduct."

Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose term ended on Dec. 31, accepted the committee's recommendation "that the staff member be separated from service with immediate effect," she said.

Okabe said the Office of Human Resources Management was reviewing and tightening its policy on checking educational credentials in response to a recommendation by the Joint Disciplinary Committee.

Other U.N. employees are also believed to have submitted degrees from Trinity College and University and other diploma-sales businesses on employment applications, the U.N. staff members said.

A 2004 study on diploma mills names over 70 in the United States alone and several others in Australia, Costa Rica, Spain and Switzerland.

It notes that Trinity College and University "is actively pursuing the soldiers in Iraq" to buy college degrees.