Published: 28th January 2021
The 'US' varsity which gave Malayalam actor Bala a DLitt admits they are like a 'private tutorial college'
According to Bala, he was awarded the 'Doctor of Humane Letters' by 'The Royal American University' and was apparently the first South Indian to be awarded such an honour by a foreign university
On January 18, actor Bala Kumar had uploaded a video message for over eighty thousand of his followers on Facebook. He had some happy news to share. According to the actor, popular for his roles in various Tamil and Malayalam film and philanthropic work, he was awarded the 'Doctor of Humane Letters' by 'The Royal American University' and was apparently the first South Indian to be awarded such an honour by a foreign university.
Owing to COVID, the convocation wasn't held in Delaware, where the university was apparently headquartered, says Bala in the video. However, since the video was released, there has been a lot of hue and cry about the legitimacy of the university by academics across Kerala. A lot of them were further irked by the prefix Dr added to Bala's name in a poster for a college event, where he was felicitated.
Ajmal Mueen, a professor of History at MAMO College, Kozhikode claimed that most links on the university's website were static and that there were no options of enrolling for a course there. Moreover, according to him, the Google Maps satellite image did not show a university at the address mentioned on the website.
READ ALSO: Calcutta University to confer DLitt on Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, Governor to preside over ceremony
Later, he wrote to the Delaware Division of Libraries about the existence of the university and its bonafides. However, according to a message from them, the web address was not a university's.
While the Royal American University's website goes by the url www.royalamericanuniversity.
The award letter presented to Bala had mentioned the name of a certain Shafeeque Sahul Hameed, the India representative of the university. Curious to understand how the varsity works, we called him to enquire about the process of getting a DLitt and went as far as to ask how much it would cost, posing as someone asking for a friend.
Shafeeque told us that the 'online university' provides DLitts to celebrities free of cost, while others have to 'donate' a certain amount of money, which could be somewhere around Rs 40,000. People are also asked to fill up an application form for the degree, mentioning their educational qualifications. He also shared with us the registration details of the university in the State of Delaware. However, it is only registered as a company and not as a university. 'This is not a statement of good standing' reads its registration entity details on the Delaware State, Division of Corporations' website.
A document shared by Shafeeque said that the university is a member of the International Commission for Higher Education. However, we were unable to find any proof of such a body's existence. It is mentioned only on the website of a certain 'Bircham International University'. This is also problematic. While the university is said to be headquartered in Spain, it is not formally recognised by the Ministry of Education of Spain.
When asked to provide copies of the university act and statute, Shafeeque said, "This is not an academic university like Oxford or Howard. It is just like a private tutorial college."
In his video, Bala mentions that his honourary doctorate is similar to what actor Shah Rukh Khan received from the University of Edinburgh. However, the Scottish University is accredited and is one of the oldest universities in the world.
When we called him and relayed the claims about the Royal American University being made, it did not go well with Bala. Refusing to comment on this, he said. "Why isn't the media contacting me when I do something good to people?" he asked.