Bircham International University
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Bircham International University is an independent institution of distance learning higher education that offers specialization programs in fields such as management, business, arts, humanities, natural health, psychology, engineering, computers and science. BIU offers professional diplomas (specialist and expert), graduate degrees (bachelors) and postgraduate (masters and Ph.D.) through a method of instruction by correspondence for adult professional students. It is registered in Spain and Delaware, and formerly operated from the Bahamas. BIU has no recognized educational accreditation in these places. 
History and location
BIU was founded by Deric Bircham, Wiliam Martin, and Laurence Cheng Wen, who was Bircham's adopted son. According to its website, Bircham was established in Europe in 1992 and is also registered in Delaware (United States), Spain, and the Bahamas. John Bear, authority on distance education, wrote in the 2003 edition of Bears' Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning that Bircham's listed "delegation addresses [are] in Spain, England, United States (a Mail Boxes Etc. in Miami, Florida), Bahamas, Taiwan, China, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and New Zealand." He goes on to mention that "the offices in England and the Bahamas were strictly administrative and did not serve students."
Some have considered Oxford International University to be the same company as Bircham International University. However, further research into the UK Companies House reveals that Bircham bought a company named Oxford International College in the year 2000, which may have led to this confusion. It also reveals that the purchased company had no activity.
Bircham is not accredited by any recognized accreditation agency. Its website presents a list of accreditations or memberships from entities that are not recognized as educational accreditors. For example, BIU is listed as a member of the European Foundation for Quality in eLearning, a membership organization that does not engage in educational accreditation, and the International Accreditation and Recognition Council, an unrecognized accreditation agency. Neither of these is a recognized accreditation agency.
Sources explicitly listing Bircham as "unaccredited" include the Maine Department of Education and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which state that Bircham has "No degree-granting authority from Spain (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers [AACRAO] evaluation)". The Oregon Office of Degree Authorization considers BIU an unaccredited foreign degree supplier. Bircham's website acknowledges that the institution is not accredited by any agency recognized by the U.S. Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). It states that "as a provider of non formal education, ... no further authorization from a Ministry of Education is required."
BIU describes itself as a practitioner of non-formal education. As such, while it operates legally under Spanish law, it is not formally recognized by the Ministry of Education of Spain (where it is located), although the Ministry has acknowledged the relevance of the concept, and, along with other countries in the European Union, is working toward establishing policies to identify, evaluate, and recognize those entities offering non-formal education. Bircham does not have (nor does it need to have) recognized accreditation.
Because BIU is not accredited by a recognized accreditation body in the countries where it operates, its degrees and credits might not be acceptable to employers or other institutions. Use of degree titles may be restricted or illegal in some jurisdictions.
The BIU degree program requires that its students read the selected textbooks listed in the Academic Assignment Control form and write reports about those books according to the study guide instructions. One report (20 to 35 pages) will usually account for three subject courses of three BIU credits each. One report is usually assigned to cover around 350 to 400 pages of a textbook. Thus, the following pedagogical effort is calculated:
- 1 Report = 9 BIU credits = 135 hours of learning
- 375 pages reading and comprehension = 54 hours (40%) . . . .
- Data organization and report draft writing = 40 hours (30%) . . . .
- Report review and formatting = 27 hours (20%) . . . .
- Critical thinking, conclusion and opinion = 14 hours (10%) . . . .
BIU's students are expected to read assigned textbooks and write reports that show understanding of the subject matter. No laboratory work or face-to-face contact with instructors is required. BIU's programs thus bear superficial resemblance to traditional ones, and so it should be obvious that two years of distance learning are not equivalent to four to six years of traditional academic activity.
BIU offers programs in a variety of fields including business, psychology, arts and humanities, science, engineering, and management, among many others. Its courses are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic.
In 2003, South Florida's CityLink magazine reported that Oregon education officials said that Bircham was "totally bogus".
In July 2007, the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) of Mexico issued a notice stating that degrees lacking RVOE (Official Recognition from the Mexican Government) will not be validated by the SEP. Degrees via online or distance learning issued by foreign institutions like Bircham University will not be recognized by the SEP.
In April 2008 the Nairobi Business Daily reported that Bircham International University was operating in Kenya without authorization. In March 2010 the same newspaper published a correction, stating that BIU "is a Spanish institution of distance learning and is in good standing with Spanish authorities that offers alternatives to formal adult higher education specifically aimed at adult working professionals" and that its programs "can be legalized and validated by the Embassy of Kenya in the USA or Spain despite the institution not being registered by the Commission for Higher Education in Kenya". An official of Kenya's Commission for Higher Education was quoted as warning that BIU degree certificates would not be recognized. In 2013, BIU directors state that BIU does not have any presence in Kenya nor any collaboration with other any college or educational institution in Kenya.
In 2013, Stephen Barrett, recognized consumer advocate and webmaster of Quackwatch, conducted a skeptical review concluding that BIU offers what amounts to supervised textbook reading plus credentials that suggest bearers have considerably more formal education and expertise than they actually have. The requirements for its degrees are much less than those of universities accredited by CHEA-recognized agencies. Most of BIU's teachings are straightforward, but some promote pseudoscientific concepts and practices. None of its health-related programs—by themselves—provide an adequate basis for clinical practice. He includes Bircham in the Quackwatch lists as a questionable non-accredited school, but also admits that at least 90% of BIU's programs and course appear to be straightforward and fact-based.
John Bear considers that "in the process of choosing any school, the prospective student should determine, as best he or she can, if their credentials will meet both their current and predictable future needs." Based on the testimonials offered by Bircham University, it seems clear that there are many students who are satisfied with the their credentials.” Accordingly, it appears that Bircham International University is not as dubious an institution as it may have previously been considered.
- Educational accreditation
- Degree mill
- Accreditation mill
- List of unaccredited institutions of higher learning
- Distance Education
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- Bircham International University official website