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Good practices

University ranking fraud goes to court

Moshe Porat, who ran the Richard J. Fox School of Business at Temple University, USA, between 1996 and 2018, has been indicted by a federal court for submitting fraudulent information to the U.S. News & World Report, which has published a respected annual ranking of US universities since 1983. If found guilty, Porat could face up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to US$500,000. According to the US Department of Justice, Porat “conspired and schemed to deceive the school’s applicants, students, and donors into believing that the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, so they would pay tuition and make donations to Temple.”

Porat, who is Israeli but has lived in the USA for many decades, former professor Isaac Gottlieb, and former administrator Marjorie O’Neall are accused of falsifying data about the school’s professional MBA programs, such as the average professional experience of students and the percentage who were enrolled part-time. The former dean reported, for example, that all students on the online MBA course had been selected via admissions tests, but the actual figure was no more than 20%. Almost 90% of the school’s income comes from its online MBA courses.

According to the Department of Justice, the deceit led the online MBA to jump from 28th place in the U.S. News ranking for its category in 2013 to first place in each of the following four years. The fraudulent behavior began in 2013 after a meeting between school executives and U.S. News officials, at which the latter made it clear that they had no means of auditing the data provided by universities. US Attorney Jennifer Williams, who filed the charges against the former dean, told the website Inside Higher Ed that Porat’s conduct jeopardized the integrity of the academic system and harmed the students whose choices were influenced by the ranking. “The success of the higher education system in the United States relies not only on the academic excellence and rigor of the programs offered, and not only on the aptitude and hard work of the applicants and students, but also on transparency and honesty about the system itself,” she said.

Temple University is a public higher education institute with more than 38,000 students, founded in Philadelphia, USA, in 1834. Porat, who has left his position but still maintains ties with the Business School, denies the allegations and is suing the institution for allegedly defaming him in announcements about the scandal. Last year, the university agreed to pay US$4 million to current and former students of its online MBA and US$1.4 million to students of other programs at the Business School who filed for damages after the allegations of fraud became public.