Whistleblowers: German MBA deflated

May 3, 2002

The University of Wales has ordered a thorough check of all publicity material produced by a private partner college in Germany, after investigations found that the partner had been making confusing references to a prestigious, but unconnected, MBA course.

The German college, Allfinanz Akademie, provides MBAs validated by the University of Wales validation unit but had been wrongly suggesting that the course is equivalent to a world-class accredited MBA course offered by the institute for financial management at the University of Wales, Bangor, and Manchester Business School. The IFM Bangor/MBS course, which awards a degree from the University of Manchester, is entirely separate from the Wales-validated Allfinanz course.

German investigative journalist Barbel Schwertfeger alerted the Association of MBAs to the situation. The AMBA was concerned that general confusion about the federal University of Wales may have led students taking the Allfinanz course to believe erroneously that they were enrolled on the AMBA-accredited Bangor/Manchester course.

On its website, Allfinanz had stated correctly that "the Institute for Financial Management at the University of Wales offer an MBA with the Manchester Business School". But it had added: "The validation board at the University of Wales has come to the conclusion that the (Allfinanz course) is of comparable/equal weight/value" as the Bangor/Manchester course.

The German journalist also uncovered a letter sent by Allfinanz in 1999, saying that its MBA programme was the German version of the Bangor/Manchester course and that the admission criteria were the same. The AMBA brought the concerns to the attention of Bangor and Wales.

Bob Henry, executive director of the IFM at Bangor, told The THES : "I can confirm that IFM has no involvement with the Allfinanz programme. I can only surmise that the website entry had arisen through misunderstanding on the part of Allfinanz arising from the association they have with the University of Wales and the fact that IFM is owned jointly by the universities of Manchester and Wales... I have contacted Allfinanz to ask that any reference to IFM and the MBA be removed from their website. This has been done."

A spokesman for the federal University of Wales, which receives a £350 registration fee for each of about 70 students enrolled each year on the Allfinanz programme, said a check "of all publicity material Allfinanz has issued is currently being undertaken and any necessary revisions will be checked by our validation unit, to ensure that no references capable of misinterpretation are included".

She said that all staff teaching on the Allfinanz MBA course are full professors at German state universities and that Allfinanz worked closely with the German Fernuniversitat. She said the MBA had been running for 12 years, had undergone two quinquennial reviews, was externally examined by senior academics whose first language was German and was moderated by a senior academic from the University of Wales, Bangor.

Lothar Streitferdt, head of Allfinanz, said the college had nothing to hide and had done nothing wrong. He said that it had merely been advising students that if they wanted to complete a similar MBA in English, rather than in German, they should apply to Bangor's IFM. He accepted that the MBAs were not of an equivalent standard.

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