Will you be fooled into thinking that the University of Devonshire existed? How would you like to own a qualification from your University of Wexford? Or does graduating in the University of Palmers Green appeal?
These were all trading names in the fake university diploma, put in place with websites looking like these were licensed universities. Thankfully, these fake institutions have all long since been turn off, although the qualifications they issued can still remain in use.
Which is only the tip of iceberg, because new fake universities appear all the time. The process to setup an imitation university may be easy – a convincing domain address with the educational website installed from the template must do it. And with the addition of relevant text, sometimes plagiarised directly from a real university website, the deception is complete.
Recently, more than 40 websites awarding fraudulent and worthless degrees to UK students were closed down included in an increased education crackdown. The websites allowed those desperate enough, to fork out money for any fake certificate, which would state that they had achieved anything approximately doctorate level qualifications.
A lot of the websites shut down with the Higher Education Degree Datacheck used names near those of real universities – including the supposed “Stafford University”. This seemingly operated around the laurels of your legitimate Staffordshire University.
During my 10 years employed in academic integrity research, I’ve find many methods students use to assert qualifications they don’t deserve. My work towards contract cheating, where students pay others to finish their assessments, revealed a network of students looking to develop their degree one fake assignment at the same time. Buying a whole qualification outright goes past this, circumventing any chance that students have of learning.
Fake universities and diploma mills operate with some other degrees of subtlety and class. Some fake universities claim so as to issue awards based upon “life experience”. For a fee, they permit people to demonstrate that they’ve already gained the relevant skills essential for a qualification – and so they issue a certificate to prove this.
Other fake universities set their site up to resemble a real university. Some issue assignments to students. The assignments may never be marked, but tend to fool people into thinking these people were getting a legitimate course. Many fake universities dispense with pretence and just ask for payment on an award.
But a more elaborate business model utilized by a small band of fake universities has additionally emerged. These offer subscriptions where they keep up to date the pretence their fake qualifications are legitimate. They also have been found to offer you services to verify that qualifications they awarded exist, together with fake job references.
It’s also easy to buy a fake degree certificate to get a real university. This certificate often looks just like the real thing. Fraudsters with use of premium quality 12dexppky equipment can produce those to order. They can even range from the elaborate seals and holograms located on the real documents.
Some sites state that these certificates are only “novelty items”, but there is however no text around the purchased certificates to suggest such a thing. And it is easy for individuals with desktop publishing skills and access to templates or photographs of real degree certificates to knock up their particular convincing fake versions.
With employability at the forefront of many universities, it is the link with all the commercial world where the possibility of fake degrees has to be keenly considered. Once a business has brought on a graduate worker who cannot deliver, they may not want to engage with that university in the future. Fake degrees bring with them a precise chance of harm to university reputation.
Being a sector, we need to do more to combat fake universities and fake degrees. The key work undertaken with the Higher Education Degree Datacheck is a good start, but awareness has to go further. Every university needs to understand the imposters trading on its name, and also the sites offering fake qualifications claiming to get from that university.
Employers too should shoulder some responsibility when recruiting staff. They should not simply take every candidate as well as every document at face value. UK universities give you a service where qualifications can be verified. Some offer this verification directly. Other universities refer employers to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck or similar services which were create for this purpose.