'Sir' José woos Latins with dodgy degrees

November 17, 2000

Universities in South America have been alerted to the activities of the self-styled England and Wales University, which has attempted to engineer exchanges of its honorary degrees with legitimate institutions.

Despite a warning from the British Council in Lima, the university, which lists addresses in Crawley, Sussex and Madrid, succeeded in conferring a degree on the president and rector of at least one Peruvian university.

In a letter to Peruvian universities, "Sir" Jose Gesto, chairman and president of the university, promised a degree ceremony in the presence of the relevant country's civil, military and religious authorities. He also indicated in a letter earlier this year that he would be delighted to receive a degree from the host university.

Paraguayan authorities, alerted by the British Council, uncovered attempts by "Sir" Jose to exchange honorary degrees with legitimate universities, allegedly for cash. They believe "Sir" Jose has struck similar deals with universities in Panama.

University rectors in Peru were warned about "Sir" Jose but the rector of the Technological University of PerNo, Enrique Bedoya S nchez, and its president, Roger Amuruz Gallegos, had already received degrees and in turn bestowed UTP's honorary degree on "Sir" Jose, who claims his knighthood from the "Order of the Commonwealth".

Gail Liesching, British Council director in Lima, wrote to the national assembly of Peruvian rectors saying the England and Wales University was not recognised.

She said: "I was approached by a rector who had received a letter. I am amazed anyone fell for it - it looked tatty. This is the first time I have been aware of anything like this. It is potentially very damaging to the interests of British higher education here."

The university claims to have been founded in 1879. A recorded message on the Crawley telephone number invited callers to leave a message but no reply had been received at the time of going to press. There was no response to calls to the Madrid apartment or to a cellphone number.

Details: www.england-wales-univ.org/index.htm

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