Criticism of “Masters-for-cash” scheme

Trinity came under attack by the Irish Mail on Sunday earlier this month in an article that labelled as “disgraceful, unfair” and “misleading” College’s practice of selling a “Master of Arts” to students who have completed their Bachelor’s degree, without requiring any additional study.

College sells these top-up degrees to students for €637, provided they have completed 4 years of study in an Arts course. The MA is not regarded as a studied postgraduate degree in Arts, for which students receive the title of MLitt or MPhil.

However Paul Gogarty, the Green Party’s Education spokesman, claims that the title of MA deceives employers abroad who assume it is the same as a UCD postgraduate degree that bears the same title. He claims that employers are unaware that the degree is awarded without study or additional work, and that the practice is not dissimilar to the online practice which sees people purchasing fake diplomas over the Internet. “There is a danger that Trinity will lower its standards, and devalue the entire Irish education system by giving out these degrees,” Gogarty said. “If someone is applying for a job in Ireland, let alone abroad you could easily forgive an employer for thinking that the qualifications given by Trinity are the same as those from UCD when they’re quite clearly not.”

The Mail quotes an unnamed Trinity student as saying that the MA is a “well-known secret” amongst students and that “most employers don’t know the difference,” implying that students buy the degree deliberately to deceive.

However a College spokesperson responded that “the status of the Trinity Masters in Arts is made very clear in all undergraduate academic transcripts issued by the College.” College offers the MA to students in a process that it calls historic and “in line with similar practices by universities such as Oxford and Cambridge.” However the cost for the same degree in Cambridge and Oxford is much lower at £20 and £4 respectively. The €637 fee to Trinity goes towards a central fund.

Students who purchase the degree attend a ceremony that was this year presided over by former president Mary Robinson, who also holds one of the degrees. Ruairi Quinn, the Labour Education spokesman, was quick to assure that the MA was “not the same as someone who has studied for a Masters” and called on the Higher Education Authority to investigate the issue. The HEA has declined to comment on the matter stating that Trinity is an autonomous institution and therefore it is an internal matter.