Questions raised on school that gave Boinett first degree
Questions have surfaced about a distance-learning college based in the British Virgin Islands following a joint Senate-National Assembly committee’s vote on Tuesday to approve the nomination of Joseph Kipchirchir Boinett as the new Inspector-General of Police.
The vote followed controversy sparked by a letter from the Commission for University Education (CUE) that said “Washington International University”, where Mr Boinnet earned his first degree, is not accredited by America’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Distance Education and Training Council.
The accreditation issue appeared to put Mr Boinett’s nomination in jeopardy.
Jubilee-allied members of the panel (composed of members of the security committee of each House) did not want to embarrass President Uhuru Kenyatta by rejecting his pick for such a crucial security post.
The committee then invited CUE secretary Prof David Some to Boma Hotel in Nairobi to clarify the comments made in the letter about the university.
Minutes seen by the Nation’s Parliament reporter showed that Prof Some told the committee that “Washington International University is recognised by Unesco despite not being recognised in its country of origin”.
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Based on this and other remarks made by Prof Some, the committee voted to recommend Mr Boinett as the next Inspector-General of Police, to replace David Kimaiyo, who resigned in December 2014 under a cloud of growing criticism of his handling of security issues.
A report issued by the committee, and which was scheduled to be discussed in both the Senate and the National Assembly on Wednesday, was signed by 26 of the 37 members of the panel.
Of the 11 members who did not sign the report, the Nation reported, seven attended the meeting but chose not not append their signatures to the report, suggesting discord among panellists about Mr Boinett’s nomination.
Mr Boinett is reported to have earned a bachelor’s degree in diplomacy and international studies from Washington International.
On its website, the school describes itself as a “cyberspace university” founded in 1994 and incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
The school has no campus and says it offers “flexible distance education for adults”.
“You study when you want, where you want!” the site declares.
The site also features testimonials by apparently satisfied alumni from several countries, including people identified as Kenyans.
Unlike other universities that provide accreditation information on their websites, Washington International’s website presents no such data.
The school, which critics describe as a “degree mill”, has used several mailing addresses in various US states over the years, including in Hawaii, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, but it is now incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
The school has seen plenty of legal trouble in the United States, with one case arising from its use of its original name “Washington University”. It lost that case, whereupon it added the word “International” to its name.
In another case brought by the state of Hawaii, it was alleged to have “deceived consumers by failing to disclose its lack of accreditation”.
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board lists Washington International as one of those institutions whose degrees are “illegal to use” in Texas.
The board’s website says the school has “no accreditation from a CB recognised accreditor” and that the “British Virgin Island does not have postsecondary oversight capability”.
Considering the school’s base in the Caribbean, it’s not clear why Kenya’s Commission for University Education deems important the opinions of the two American accrediting agencies cited by Prof Some.
The Nation’s attempts to reach Prof Some were unsuccessful, as no one picked up several calls made Wednesday afternoon to the commission’s telephone numbers listed on its website.
As for Unesco, the website of the agency’s Nairobi office does not have its own list of “recognised” schools but refers readers to country-specific accrediting agencies for information on colleges readers may be interested in.
Washington International is not on any of the approved colleges listed by America’s accrediting agencies.
In an email message to Unesco-Nairobi on Wednesday, the Nation asked Jaco Du Toit of the media office for information that would confirm Prof Some’s assertion that Washington International is recognised by the agency.
Mr Du Toit said Unesco “is not an accreditation institution” but referred the Nation to Unesco-Nairobi education specialist Marina Patrier for an “informed response”.
Ms Patrier did not respond to three email messages sent to her on Wednesday afternoon.