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The images of a besuited Ferdinand Marcos Jr, clad in a top hat and leaning nonchalantly on a Rolls-Royce, dating from his time in Britain in the 1970s are as you may expect from the playboy scion of a kleptocratic dictator.
Yet as the Marcos family returns to power in the Philippines after a landslide presidential victory by Marcos Jr, he is facing calls to stop misrepresenting the circumstances of his studies at Oxford.
The university has confirmed that he did not complete his BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics after enrolling in 1975.
“According to our records, he did not complete his degree, but was awarded a special diploma in social studies in 1978,” Oxford said in a response to a freedom of information request lodged by a UK-based Filipina supporter of Marcos Jr’s nearest rival in last week’s election.
Marcos Jr, nicknamed “Bongbong”, has claimed in interviews that Oxford issued him with a bachelor’s degree, while his official spokesperson has said that the politician and his team “stand by the degree confirmation which was issued by the University of Oxford”. His website states: “He completed his undergraduate studies at Oxford University and graduated with a special diploma in social studies.”
But a UK-based Filipina supporter of Marcos Jr’s rival Leni Robredo, who lodged the FoI request, said of Marcos: “He should stop misrepresenting his special diploma, which is clearly not a degree. It’s clear he did not complete undergraduate studies.”
She added: “In the grand scheme of things, it may not seem so important, as our constitution states that presidential candidates only have to be literate and be a citizen of a certain age. But it’s a big thing in the Philippines if you have studied abroad and people are impressed by that. What he has been saying about that is a reflection on his personality and character. It’s also a reflection of a pattern of disinformation that a lot of researchers have pointed out recently.”
After years of rebranding its image, the Marcos family seems to be back in power. Ongoing counts on Friday also showed that his political allies were set to capture most of the 300-seat House of Representatives and half of the 24-seat senate, which was also up for election.
Marcos Jr received more than 31 million votes in the unofficial count, with projections showing one of the largest majorities in decades.
The result comes after an onslaught of disinformation designed to revise history, enhance the reputation of the family and undermine their opponents.
The issue of Marcos Jr’s Oxford degree first emerged seven years ago when his profile on the website for the Philippines senate stated that he had obtained an Oxford degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
Newly published letters last year revealed that the envoys for his father had lobbied senior figures at Oxford University’s St Edmund Hall to preserve the son’s academic career after he failed examinations on a number of occasions.
After university, Marcos Jr became the vice-governor of his home province, Ilocos Norte, on the north-western tip of Luzon, at the age of 23, and later governor. He was 29 when his father – who died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 – was ousted and the family was forced to leave the Philippines.
Previously published documents revealed that Marcos failed two of his three preliminary exams at Oxford in the summer of 1976, later doing only enough to pass one of two resits – failing politics for a second time. Discussions followed between emissaries of Marcos Sr and John Kelly, the principal of St Edmund Hall, who was asked if they could “think of any special circumstances which would warrant the college departing from its normal rule”.
A deal was eventually hammered out in which Marcos was allowed to continue his PPE studies but was transferred to a special diploma in social sciences, a programme that has since been discontinued.
A history of CV truth-twisters
Marcos Jr is not the only famous person to have presented a well-seasoned CV.
Gillian McKeith, the You Are What You Eat presenter, agreed in 2007 to drop the title Dr from her company’s advertising after a complaint to the industry watchdog. The complaint was brought by a Guardian reader who learned of McKeith’s academic credentials from a Bad Science column by Ben Goldacre.
Andrea Leadsom, in the midst of 2016 Tory leadership campaign, published a revised CV after claims that she had exaggerated her roles in a City of London career. Former colleagues claimed she had exaggerated the importance of her roles at Barclays and Invesco Perpetual.
Mina Chang, a senior official in the administration of Donald Trump, was caught out in 2019 after flaunting a Harvard education that in fact amounted to a seven-week course in 2016. She was also found to have invented herself a role on a UN panel and even created a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it.
Craig Butfoy was jailed in March for lying about his flying experience to get a job with British Airways. He is also accused of giving false details on his CV, including that he had held a private pilot’s licence since 1998, and fabricated documents, including a training course certificate.
Jeffrey Archer, the author and disgraced politician, was accepted on a one-year course at Oxford University’s Department of Education after claiming he had six O-levels and three A-levels. He actually had three O-levels and no A-levels. The three A-levels that never were saw him accepted for a one-year diploma course at Oxford’s Brasenose college, yet he fostered the impression that he had completed a full degree course.
Lee McQueen won a six-figure job in June 2008 with Sir Alan Sugar in the final of the BBC show The Apprentice in spite of his claim that he had spent two years at university, when in fact he spent only four months there.
Florin Roman resigned in December 2021 as Romania’s minister of innovation and digitalisation after an investigation by journalists who found significant irregularities on his resumé and evidence that he had plagiarised an academic paper.