Tongan woman fakes doctorate award graduation

Kiliki heni ke ke lau This news in Tongan a e ongoongo ni ‘i he lea faka-Tonga.

UPDATED-The University of Sydney has denied a Tongan woman’s claim that she has been awarded a Doctor of Laws.

Lisia Soakai Tupou claimed that she had been awarded a Masters’ degree in Forensic Psychology and a Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the university’s Law School.

However, the University of Sydney said her name was not on the list of LLD recipients, nor on the list of students who had been awarded a doctorate for successfully completing a research thesis in 2014.

According to the university’s website, only a mature scholar would be likely to meet the requirements for the LLD.

The University also said it “does not offer a Master of Forensic Psychology”.

Invitation letters sent out to guests and family members said: “Mr and Mrs Anitelu Soakai and Mr Kelepi Tupou are proud to announce the graduation of their daughter, wife Lisia Mary Caroline Soakai Tupou with a Master of Forensic Psychology & Doctor of Law Degree from the University of Sydney Law School Class of 2014”

“You are invited to Lisia’s Graduation celebration held at 3.00pm, May 31st 2014 at the Tokaikolo Hall, 213 – 215 The Trongate, Granville, NSW.”

Tupou uploaded photos to her Facebook page on which she is shown wearing Tongan attire, holding a bouquet and wearing academic regalia and a cap.

To celebrate her achievement, her family staged a big ceremony at which thousands of dollars and Tongan handicrafts were offered.

Following an exchange of messages through Facebook between Kaniva News and Tupou last Saturday, she removed photos on her page claimed to have been taken on her graduation day.

She also removed a message that said:

“The happiest day of my life.. a double degree, a Master of Forensic Psychology and a Doctor of Laws. I graduated top of my graduating year, including the overall for the scholarship class. I am proud to say that I have a new title and I am now known as Doctor Lisia Soakai Tupou. Thank you to my husband, family & friends, who have supported me through my academic journey.. we did it!!”

Her status attracted 97 likes with friends congratulating her on her achievement.

A woman called Mele Mafi Pua commented: “Grandma would have been so proud…congratz again”.

In response Tupou wrote: “Your comment brought tears to my eyes Mele Mafi Pua I wish she was still here with me to celebrate..xx”

However, an e-mail from the university’s administrator, Christopher Pile, obtained by Kaniva News, said: “The Doctor of Laws (LLD) is an honorary degree which the Faculty of Law and the University of Sydney would bestow only on those who have a pre-eminent career and life-long commitment to law in NSW, Australian, or globally.”

“It might be worthwhile to take some action to save the family from any embarrassment,” Pile added.

Pile also said: “While I cannot speak entirely on behalf of the University’s School of Psychology, a simple search of Psychology’s postgraduate degrees will show that they do not offer a degree called Master of Forensic Psychology. Although I acknowledge Forensic Psychology may well be a topic that students could pursue in a Master of Science, PhD, or Doctor of Clinical Psychology”.

When Tupou was asked to provide her side of the story to Kaniva News, she asked for our contact details and said her lawyer would contact us on Monday (today).

The main points

  • A Tongan woman’s claim that she was awarded a double degree from the University of Sydney last month have turned out to be untrue.
  • Lisia Sokai Tupou claimed she was awarded a Masters’ degree in Forensic Psychology and a Doctorate in Laws (LLD) from the University of Sydney’s Law School.
  • To celebrate her achievement, her family staged a big ceremony at which thousands of dollars and Tongan handicrafts were offered.
  • But the university says the LLD is an honorary degree that is awarded only to those who have a pre-eminent career and life-long commitment to the law.
  • Following an exchanges of messages between Kaniva News and Tupou yesterday, she removed photos claimed to have been taken on her graduation day and a message from her Facebook page.

More information

University of Sydney handbook

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