Thursday, October 08, 2009

Dark Satanic Diploma Mills

Because I find them useful people to know, and because they have a long history of involvement with skepticisim, I know a magician or three. Much of what interests me is about how beliefs in odd things are created and maintained, and magicians offer a way into exploring elements of that in a way that, being entertainment-led, is no less ethical than, say, a horror film.

It was through my magician friends that I learnt of a regular meeting of hypnotists that had to be disbanded due to the harrassment of an individual so dependent on publicity that I will simply refuse to name him here. He cited the 1952 Hypnosis Act which forbids unlicensed paid performances of hypnosis. Said contretemps felt that a bunch of mesmerists meeting up once a month and putting willing punters under the 'fluence was therefore breaking the law (despite no money changing hands) and put a small but thorny stick in the spokes. I should add, also, that the guy sold training materials that would teach people how to perform hypnosis within the law, so his vocal disapproval was as much a marketing exercise for him as any kind of altruism.

Wanting to learn more about him, I tracked down his web page where I learnt that he not only performs stage hypnosis, but under an assumed name also practices hypnotherapy. Not only did he assume a name, but he also assumed a title, that of Doctor. You might be tempted, knowing that Doctor is an unprotected title, that he merely plucked his doctorness out of thin air, but no. As he is quick to point out he has a "genuine" honorary phd from Chelsea University. Leaving aside the fact that you'd have to be a complete arse to actually call yourself "doctor" if your Phd is honorary, Chelsea University is not real. It's a diploma mill.

The registrar at Chelsea has an office at 63 Draycott Place, SW3 2SH. Or at least he would do if such an address existed. The website, on the other hand, is registered to 26 York Street, London, W1U 6PZ, which does exist, but is the site of a virtual office, so might as well be a PO Box.

Chelsea University is also listed on a number of websites devoted to exposing diploma mills, and warning foreign students that the education certificates offered by such places are not recognised in the real world. Chelsea University has no degree-granting status.

I've put in a complaint to Consumer Direct about them, as much to see what will happen as anything. CU is a ghost university, and I can't quite see how one can regulate against a university that has no buildings or staff. Hopefully the ISP can be asked to remove the site, which seems to be the sole base of operation.

And that nice Mr X has turned his noctorate to foul purpose. He offers as "novelty" items, very real looking and humourless qualification certificates so that untrained NLPers and hypnotherapists can claim they are adept in such innoccuous fields as "advanced psycho-sexual therapy". How fun to pretend you have specialist training in the use of advanced psycho-sexual therapy when you do not! How your patients will chuckle when they realise! You can get that full bundle of hilarity for about £127. Consumer Direct know about him, too, now...

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