An Argentinian rector has resigned after his university was found to be awarding degrees to hundreds of students in Spain through an unauthorised distance-learning programme, writes Jason Mitchell in Buenos Aires.
Carlos Dalfaro, the rector of the National University of Formosa (UNdF), and Hector Quijano, the dean of the university's faculty of administration, quit just before a governing body meeting was due to remove them from their posts.
An investigation held in both Argentina and Spain focused on degrees from UNdF and Atlantic Argentina University that were awarded to students at the Cibernos Institute and the Higher Business School, both in Madrid, and the Ecina School in Pamplona, under a programme managed by the World Collegein Tierra del Fuego.
The National University of Formosa is a state university, while Atlantic Argentina University is private.
The Argentinian Embassy in Madrid has to certify Argentine institutions before they can be authorised by the Spanish Ministry of Education to set up in Spain. In neither of these cases was the required certification procured.
Hector Monacci, the embassy's secretary of press and educa-tion, said: "We never granted this certification, despite its being requested several times."
Moreover, the Ministry of Education in Buenos Aires has never authorised either institution to carry out educational activities through distance learning.
Oscar Reali, Argentina's national director of university administration, said that the authorities first became aware of the irregular activitiesof the two institutions in 1999.
He said that the World College "and its supposed representative, Jorge Gorosito - through all class of legal shenanigans, changes of the college's name, address and academic objectives - had managed to maintain such a degree of confusion that it could press on with the illegal offering of courses and university titles".
Julio Gómez, dean of the UNdF faculty of natural resources and a member of the investigating committee, said: "This is a very big pain for the university.
"We do not know the effect that this could have on thefuture validity of our degrees," he added.
The World College has also used the names "World University" and "Foundation World University".
The campus is registered in the town of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost province of Argentina. Dr Gorosito's address as rector is registered in Buenos Aires, which is many thousands of kilometres away.
Angéica Guzmán, the president of the provincial legislature of Tierra del Fuego, dismissed any personal links with Foundation World University after it was discovered that her home address was registered as its address when it was established.
Authorities in Madrid have warned the Cibernos Institute several times that it is not authorised to teach information technology at degree level.
The Spanish Association of Graduate Engineers in Information Technology has made a number of formal complaints about the institute.
The Spanish Ministry of Consumption has fined Cibernos for misleading advertising.