You should probably read this disturbing yet funny report from Paul Fain at Inside Higher Ed.

Apparently, Cambridge Graduate University has an all-star staff of professors who have never heard of the school, and better yet – accreditation from the University of Antarctica.

Startup University’s Phantom Faculty

Cambridge Graduate University makes some bold claims, which is hardly rare for a startup. But it has gone further than usual with an ambitious list of faculty members, many of whom had never heard of the university.

At least two professors from Northeastern University were surprised to see their names on the list, since neither has any affiliation with the venture. They are among several who have asked the university’s president, Tim Howard, a former Northeastern professor, to remove their names.

Howard said the university created its website only a few months ago, and that the concept is still evolving. Yet last week it welcomed its first full cohort of students in Hong Kong, he said.

In response to scrutiny about the university’s assertions, Howard said attention from higher education institutions and the news media “validates the power of the CGU model.” He said he embraces the “review and critiques by all parties,” and that “CGU will continue to respond by improving and adapting its cutting edge and dynamic global campus model of graduate education.”

The university plans to blend online, synchronous coursework with on-site workshops that last 6-10 days, said Howard. It will offer master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as some professional certificates, in disciplines ranging from business to public health and education.

Here’s the funny part.

The university’s accreditation appears problematic, said George Gollin, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has a long track record studying unaccredited degree-granting institutions as a side interest.

Cambridge Graduate touts its accreditation with the International Accreditation Organization (IAO), a self-described “secondary” accrediting body that seeks to “recognize and accredit education providers on an international scale,” according to its website. The Texas-based accreditor said its seal of approval is not to be claimed as a primary accreditation, which is how Cambridge Graduate is using it.

Gollin questioned relying on the accreditor in any capacity. He cited bogus degree providers on IAO’s list of accredited institutions, including one with ties to a known degree mill operator. And Cambridge Graduate isn’t the only institution accredited by IAO that makes unsupported claims on its website.

For example, Gollin notes that one of IAO’s fully accredited institutions is the University of Antarctica (motto: “Big Continent, Big Opportunities”), which the accreditor recently removed from its website.

The University of Antarctica’s homepage includes a photograph of its “Administration Building,” which is actually a lightly doctored photograph of a former attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park.