Would you be fooled into thinking that the University of Devonshire existed? How do you want to own a qualification from the University of Wexford? Or does graduating from your University of Palmers Green appeal?
These were all trading names from the fake college diploma, setup with websites resembling these folks were licensed universities. Thankfully, these fake institutions supply long since been turn off, though 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 put together a fake university can be easy – a convincing website name with an educational website installed from a template ought to do it. With the addition of relevant text, sometimes plagiarised from a genuine university website, the deception is complete.
Recently, greater than 40 websites awarding fraudulent and worthless degrees to UK students were closed down as an element of a greater education crackdown. The websites allowed those desperate enough, to fork out money for a fake certificate, which may state that they had achieved anything up to doctorate level qualifications.
A lot of the websites shut down through the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck used names in close proximity to those of real universities – for example the supposed “Stafford University”. This seemingly operated in the laurels in the legitimate Staffordshire University.
During my 15 years operating in academic integrity research, I’ve find many methods students use to claim qualifications they don’t deserve. My focus on contract cheating, where students pay others to complete their assessments, revealed a network of students looking to develop their degree one fake assignment at one time. Purchasing a whole qualification outright surpasses this, circumventing any chance that students have of learning.
Fake universities and diploma mills operate with assorted levels of subtlety and sophistication. Some fake universities claim so as to issue awards according to “life experience”. For a fee, they allow customers to demonstrate that they’ve already gained the skills essential for a qualification – plus they issue a certificate to prove this.
Other fake universities set their website up to resemble a real university. Some issue assignments to students. The assignments may not be marked, but tend to fool people into thinking they were having a legitimate course. Many fake universities dispense with pretence and only ask for payment on an award.
But a much more elaborate business structure employed by a tiny number of fake universities has also emerged. These offer subscriptions where they continue the pretence that the fake qualifications are legitimate. They have also been found to offer services to confirm that qualifications they awarded exist, associated with fake job references.
It’s also possible to invest in a fake degree certificate to get a real university. This certificate often looks identical to the genuine article. Fraudsters with entry to high quality 12dexppky equipment can produce these to order. They are able to even range from the elaborate seals and holograms found on the real documents.
Some sites claim that these certificates are just “novelty items”, however, there is no text around the purchased certificates to suggest such a thing. Which is easy for individuals with desktop publishing skills and entry to templates or photographs of real degree certificates to knock up their own personal convincing fake versions.
With employability the main thing on many universities, this is the link using the commercial world where the danger of fake degrees needs to be keenly considered. Once an employer has taken on a graduate worker who cannot deliver, they will likely not prefer to engage with that university later on. Fake degrees bring along with them a precise chance of harm to university reputation.
Like a sector, we have to do more to combat fake universities and fake degrees. The main work undertaken through the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck is a good start, but awareness has to go further. Every university needs to learn about the imposters trading on its name, along with the sites offering fake qualifications claiming being from that university.
Employers too must shoulder some responsibility when recruiting staff. They should not just take every candidate and each document at face value. UK universities give a service where qualifications can be verified. Some offer this verification directly. Other universities refer employers on the Higher Education Degree Datacheck or similar services that have been put in place for this specific purpose.