22 February 2019 • HOP, Oscarine Vonk
Inspectorate carries out investigation into complaints about Stenden University of Applied Sciences in Qatar
The educational inspectorate has been carrying out an investigation since October 2018 into alleged misconduct at the overseas campus of Stenden University of Applied Sciences (NHL Stenden) in Qatar, according to a report in Dutch daily newspaper NRC. The executive board of NHL Stenden described the article as “insinuating”, but did not provide any details about the issue.
Foreign students at the overseas campus of NHL Stenden in Qatar have allegedly been wrongfully awarded Dutch higher education degrees with the aid of test and examination fraud, according to the NRC. It was alleged that the campus has “corrupt staff” and “inadequate administration”. The newspaper based its article on discussions with current and former staff, students, internal correspondence and student records.
Following a detailed complaint from a former staff member, the inspectorate began its investigation last October into potential misconduct at the campus in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The former staff member mentioned, among other things, that “a diploma from Stenden in Qatar is worth less than the paper it is printed on.”
In 2017, three examination boards sent an incendiary letter to the executive board of NHL Stenden about the events in Qatar, in which they called for the closure of the establishment. However, according to the article, the executive board ignored the request and in fact expanded its offering in Doha.
In a response from the university of applied sciences, the executive board of Stenden University of Applied Sciences called the article “insinuating”. Apparently, not only do the matters referred to in the article “date back to the period between 2011-2017”, but the former executive board had allegedly also investigated all of the complaints externally and immediately and carefully implemented the suggested improvements. The executive board denies that diplomas were wrongfully awarded to foreign students. “The education and examination rules and regulations, the teaching and testing programme, the external assessment of theses and the exit level are the same as in the Netherlands.”
Stenden University of Applied Sciences profiles itself as “international” and “groundbreaking” with its overseas campuses in Indonesia, Qatar, Thailand and South Africa. It is the first time that the inspectorate has put the foreign activities of the university of applied sciences under the spotlight. That was also the case in 2011 and 2012. Then the inspectorate concluded that NHL Stenden had “not sufficiently safeguarded the content, supervision and assessment of the practical component and the graduation procedures” and had wrongfully awarded 259 Dutch degrees between 2005 and 2011 in countries including Qatar and South Africa.
The inspectorate is expected to complete its final report in spring. The executive board of Stenden University of Applied Sciences said that it is waiting with confidence to see the findings and is open for further improvements.