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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Christian college is investigated
Bible
A Christian college operating in Northern Ireland is under investigation, after complaints about the quality of the degrees it offers.

Trading Standards has told the BBC they are investigating the European Theological Seminary and College of the Bible International.

It was founded in 1993, by Gordon Beck who is from Scotland.

Interviewed on Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence, Mr Beck defended the quality of his college's degree programmes.

"We are a college which is entirely different. We don't claim to be a college, like a university college, we don't claim that.

"Our standard is this - that we claim to be part of the body of Christ, we do not claim to be a secular college," Mr Beck said.

The seminary, which has no buildings in Northern Ireland, offers PhDs for 500 and for weeks, not years of studies.

Its operations in NI are run from the home of Mr Beck who has lived in the country most of his life.

He founded the seminary in 1993 and since then a few hundred students from across the world have taken degrees or other qualifications.

Dissertation

One man who paid 500 to receive a doctorate in philosophy from the seminary in May 2001, said he wrote a 60,000-word dissertation based on limited research in six weeks.

The man, who did not want to be named but is now a minister in Northern Ireland, said Mr Beck looked at his work for about 20 minutes before determining that it was a PhD.

"I had expected him to take it away and for a couple of weeks read through it critically, underline parts and look at parts that did not make sense, look at errors that I had made and come back to me and grill me over it, which he didn't do.

"I received a certificate with the graduation of that September 2001," he said.

He said he could not see how the work he submitted could have been comparable to a doctoral dissertation and said he does not list the qualification on his CV.

Sunday Sequence gave the dissertation to a theological expert Professor Stephen Williams from Union Theological College in Belfast.

He said in his opinion it was not up to masters degree standard, never mind worth a PhD.

"With regret one would just have to fail it altogether," he said.

Mr Beck said he felt hurt by the student's allegations and said he had believed the man had studied the subject for many years.

He said the man's work would also now go to a qualified verifier.






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