In a recent interview, CBC’s Marketplace discovered that former instructor at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Dubravko Zgrablić held a fake computer science degree from Almeda University.
Zgrablić currently teaches at Seneca College and previously taught at other Canadian post-secondary institutions like U of T, Centennial College, and Ryerson University.
Zgrablić told CBC journalists that it took only three months to complete his online master’s degree, which only required “11 phone exams.” He later wrote in a Facebook post that it took nine months to get the degree.
In this post, Zgrablić said he started looking for online master’s degree programs in computer science in late 2002. There were only a handful of them in the US — he felt that “Almeda University looked most respectable, with a list of accreditations on their site.” After that, he did his Prior Learning Assessment with the institution in 2003, which consisted of a few phone assessments.
Zgrablić received a message from the institution in 2004 that his work had exceeded expectations and that a thesis would not be required for the completion of his degree. He got his transcript with a “PASS” in every subject.
Marketplace obtained business records of a company called Axact, an IT firm based out of Pakistan, which hands out fake degrees to people all over the world. Almeda University was one of them: a fake online school with no accreditation and only a mailing address in Boise, Idaho that could not be located upon inspection.
“Almeda was accredited, just not by the right accreditation agencies,” Zgrablić argued, adding that he and the four institutions where he has worked had no way of knowing the truth.
Two CBC reporters went undercover posing as Seneca students and asked him questions about the program he is teaching. When asked on the show where he got his master’s degree, he had trouble recalling the name of the institution and was finally reminded by two journalists that it was Almeda.
Zgrablić shared his email correspondence with the CBC journalists with The Varsity. In these emails, he argued that his degree was handed out to all four institutions to which he applied, and none of them questioned him about it.
When the schools were asked about Zgrablić’s teaching accreditation, they were reluctant to give any sort of statement. Seneca College refused and stated it could not comment “on personnel matters for privacy reasons.” The Dean of the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies had a similar response and declined an on-camera interview.
Centennial College claimed that Almeda did not come up as part of Zgrablić’s hiring process in 2000, and that he was hired based on his diploma from the University of Zagreb in Croatia. Ryerson University sent out a statement as well: “As a condition of employment, Ryerson requires that the candidate arrange for their degree granting institution to send their transcripts directly to the university. The University will not accept copies of transcripts or originals provided by the candidate to the supervisor, those must come from their degree granting institution. If questions regarding the legitimacy of the degree granting institution arise, it will be referred to the University’s Registrar for further verification.”
Zgrablić took down his master’s degree from his LinkedIn profile after the CBC confrontation. However, he stated that it wasn’t because he was guilty and wrote in a Facebook post, “The reason I removed Almeda from my profile is because it became a dead currency, zero value, and being a source of controversy made it a liability.” He believed there was nothing wrong with his title, but “everything wrong with the institution that issued it.”
The Marketplace exposition revealed that more than 800 Canadians could have this fake degree, while Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who investigated the diploma mills, said that the number might be higher. He estimated that more than half of the PhDs issued in the United States are fake.
Editor’s Note (October 2): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Zgrablić was a professor at the University of Toronto. He was actually an instructor.
Editor’s Note (October 3): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Zgrablić taught at UTSC.