Would you be fooled into thinking that the University of Devonshire existed? How do you need to own a qualification in the University of Wexford? Or does graduating from the University of Palmers Green appeal?
These were all trading names in the Fake diploma & transcript, setup with websites appearing like these folks were licensed universities. Thankfully, these fake institutions have got all long since been de-activate, although the qualifications they issued might still remain in use.
And also this is simply the tip of iceberg, because new fake universities appear constantly. This process to setup an imitation university could be easy – a convincing domain address by having an educational website installed coming from a template should do it. And with the addition of relevant text, sometimes plagiarised straight from a true university website, the deception is finished.
Recently, more than 40 websites awarding fraudulent and worthless degrees to UK students were closed down as part of an increased education crackdown. The websites allowed those desperate enough, to fork out money for a fake certificate, which could state that they had achieved anything as much as doctorate level qualifications.
Lots of the websites shut down by the Higher Education Degree Datacheck used names near those of real universities – for example the supposed “Stafford University”. This seemingly operated on the laurels of your legitimate Staffordshire University.
During my 20 years operating in academic integrity research, I’ve come across many methods students use to claim qualifications they don’t deserve. My focus on contract cheating, where students pay others to perform their assessments, revealed a network of students looking to formulate their degree one fake assignment at one time. Getting a whole qualification outright goes beyond this, circumventing any chance that students have of learning.
Fake universities and diploma mills operate with some other quantities of subtlety and class. Some fake universities claim so that you can issue awards according to “life experience”. To get a fee, they enable customers to demonstrate that they’ve already gained the skill sets necessary for a qualification – and they also issue a certificate to prove this.
Other fake universities set their site up to look like a real university. Some issue assignments to students. The assignments may do not be marked, but tend to fool people into thinking these were having a legitimate course. Many fake universities dispense with pretence and merely ask for payment for the award.
But a much more elaborate business design utilized by a tiny band of fake universities also has emerged. These offer subscriptions where they continue the pretence their fake qualifications are legitimate. They have also been found to provide services to make sure that that qualifications they awarded exist, accompanied by fake job references.
It’s also possible to purchase a fake degree certificate for the real university. This certificate often looks just like the real thing. Fraudsters with usage of top quality 12dexppky equipment can produce those to order. They can even include the elaborate seals and holograms found on the real documents.
Some sites claim that these certificates are merely “novelty items”, but there is however no text in the purchased certificates to suggest such a thing. Which is entirely possible that those that have 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 will be the link with all the commercial world where the possibility of fake degrees must be keenly considered. Once an employer is taking over a graduate worker who cannot deliver, they will not desire to engage with the university later on. Fake degrees bring along with them a specific probability of damage to university reputation.
Like a sector, we must do more to combat fake universities and fake degrees. The important work undertaken with the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck is a great start, but awareness has to go further. Every university needs to understand about the imposters trading on its name, plus the sites offering fake qualifications claiming being from that university.
Employers too need to shoulder some responsibility when recruiting staff. They must not simply take every candidate and every document at face value. UK universities provide a service where qualifications might be verified. Some offer this verification directly. Other universities refer employers on the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck or similar services which were set up for this purpose.