Former v-c arrested on return to Papua New Guinea

Detention is latest twist in Albert Schram’s turbulent tenure at Unitech

May 16, 2018
Airport fence

The former vice-chancellor of Papua New Guinea’s second-largest university has been arrested on his return to the country and barred from leaving.

Albert Schram was dismissed in February by the council of the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech), which accused him of having an unverified PhD and spending too much time abroad, The Australian reported.

After a visit to Australia, Dutch-born Dr Schram returned to Papua New Guinea on 1 May, intending to return to his home in Europe after a short stay.

However, Dr Schram was arrested on his arrival at Port Moresby airport and charged six days later with false pretence over his PhD. He was released on bail, but his passport was confiscated.

This came even after the Pacific state’s government issued a statement verifying Dr Schram’s doctorate.

Grant Walton, a fellow in the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre, told The Australian that Dr Schram’s detention was “very concerning”.

“It sends a negative message about the rule of law in the country and ties to concerns about how academics are treated,” he said.

The arrest is the latest twist in Dr Schram’s extraordinarily turbulent tenure at Unitech. He became vice-chancellor in February 2012, but was deported a year later after apparently falling out with the university’s council and David Arore, the higher education minister. His accusers raised questions about his PhD – allegations that Dr Schram described as “silly and baseless” – but he suspected that the cause of his removal was the concerns that he had raised about fraudulent infrastructure spending at Unitech.

After a student-led campaign and the appointment of a new university council, Dr Schram returned to his post in April 2014, and remained in post until his dismissal.

Unitech said in a statement that it understood that the police had been investigating a complaint lodged in 2012 by the institution’s former council.

Local media reported that Dr Schram was seeking permission to vary his bail conditions to obtain the original copy of his PhD certificate from the European University Institute.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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