Jeff Wooller's response
As my blog post on the Jeff Wooller matter has been attracting a lot of attention - and because we have been running follow-ups in Accountancy Age too - I thought I'd publish a fuller copy of a letter we received from Wooller on the matter. We're running a shorter version in print this week.
He writes: 'In the letter page of 17 Jan, Professor Gerald Vinten asks how many millions I have made from my connection with the Irish International University.
'Five years’ ago I was offered payment by the university. I turned this down and asked for the money to be used for a student scholarship.
'The exposé of the Irish International University (IIU) by BBC TV London has received widespread publicity. The BBC TV report does not, in my view, accurately represent the views that I expressed at the interview with an under-cover reporter Plus, the BBC has used a photograph completely out of context.
'There is a picture of me with Professor Sandhu (Chief Executive of IIU) It was taken at a function in London over five years ago. The caption is "The university staged an award ceremony in Oxford". I have never been to Oxford!
'The BBC also implies that I am a major player in the university. I must emphasise that my role with the university has been that of a figure-head .This is also how IIU described my role to the BBC. I have attended several IIU convocations in UK and in Malaysia at which I have met hundreds of students. I have never received any complaint about the university.
'I have never been happy with the IIU website and have made my views clear to IIU. It said that the accreditation body in the UK was independent when I knew that it was not. On several occasions, I have told IIU that the website was misleading. It also appears that IIU has said that it had a campus in Ireland. The BBC found that it was not a campus but a telephone line! I was not aware of the lack of campus in Ireland.
'The BBC reporter suggested that my position with IIU is untenable and that I should resign. As a result, I told the IIU that I would resign if my required changes to the website were not met. The BBC has now confirmed that the misleading aspects of the website have gone.
'The BBC has highlighted the fact that I am resident in Monaco and has tried to insinuate that this is in some way related to income from IIU students. I have lived in Monaco since 2000 ie before my involvement with IIU. I must emphasise that I do not get paid to be on the IIU website or for any other services rendered to IIU.
'Professor Sandhu is one of my old students and when he set up the university, he invited me to become Vice Chancellor. I held that position until it was taken over by Professor Ralph Thomas at one time a close friend of Professor Vinten Since then I have become Honorary Chancellor which is a more accurate description of my position.
'The "Honorary" title was used to indicate that it is position in which one does not expect payment. It is highly likely that the IIU will be taking legal action because it has been represented as "Not a University" and "Not Irish". However, the registration of IIU as a university in Ireland is there for all to see. It has Irish Government approval also to use the word "International" in its title.
'The Irish Constitution allows any organisation that is set up as a university in Ireland to operate as a university, albeit not accredited. The IIU operation was described as a scam. Yet visas are given only to students attending colleges approved by Government agencies. I have no doubt that the quality of the education provided was better than that in some fully accredited universities and certainly better value than most accredited courses.
'Professor Vinten is, of course, well known as a leading player in the accreditation field as is Professor Thomas. At the BBC interview, I had suggested that rather than looking at the Irish International University they should be looking at the whole sordid business of accreditation.
'The BBC chose not to publish my comments in this connection. But for an independent assessment on the whole saga go here.
'Bear in mind also that the BBC reporter is an Oxford graduate and therefore perhaps not completely unbiased in the battle between the accredited and the unaccredited.'
I've published Wooller's comments in full in the interests of balance. He is right to question the whole 'sordid business of accreditation'. But if he considers it 'sordid' - a strong word - why allow himself to become so aligned with an organisation that used the term accreditation dubiously?
And while the rest of hat he says may well all be the case, it implies judgment on his part that is very much at the margins of what is and isn't acceptable.
And, as I wrote before, none of this reflects well on Wooller.