Are you fooled into believing that the University of Devonshire existed? How do you want to own a qualification through the University of Wexford? Or does graduating from your University of Palmers Green appeal?
They were all trading names of the fake university diploma, setup with websites appearing like these folks were licensed universities. Thankfully, these fake institutions have all long since been shut down, though the qualifications they issued may still remain in use.
Which is only the tip of iceberg, because new fake universities appear all the time. The method to setup an imitation university can be easy – a convincing domain address by having an educational website installed coming from a template must do it. And also the addition of relevant text, sometimes plagiarised directly from a genuine university website, the deception is done.
Recently, more than 40 websites awarding fraudulent and worthless degrees to UK students were closed down within a greater education crackdown. The websites allowed those desperate enough, to fork out money for any fake certificate, which may state that they had achieved anything as much as doctorate level qualifications.
Lots of the websites shut down with the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck used names close to the ones from real universities – including the supposed “Stafford University”. This seemingly operated around the laurels in the legitimate Staffordshire University.
During my 10 years doing work 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 perform their assessments, revealed a network of students looking to produce their degree one fake assignment at the same time. Investing in a whole qualification outright surpasses this, circumventing any chance that students have of learning.
Fake universities and diploma mills operate with some other degrees of subtlety and sophistication. Some fake universities claim in order to issue awards according to “life experience”. To get a fee, they allow customers to demonstrate that they’ve already gained the skills necessary for a qualification – plus they issue a certificate to prove this.
Other fake universities set their website up to look like a real university. Some issue assignments to students. The assignments may not be marked, but could fool people into thinking these folks were getting a legitimate course. Many fake universities dispense with pretence and simply request payment for an award.
But a more elaborate business structure employed by a compact group of fake universities has additionally emerged. These offer subscriptions where they continue the pretence that the fake qualifications are legitimate. They also have been found to provide services to confirm that qualifications they awarded exist, together with fake job references.
It’s also easy to invest in a fake degree certificate for a real university. This certificate often looks identical to the real thing. Fraudsters with use of premium quality 12dexppky equipment can produce these to order. They may even are the elaborate seals and holograms located on the real documents.
Some sites claim that these certificates are just “novelty items”, however, there is no text on the purchased certificates to suggest this. In fact it is feasible for those that have desktop publishing skills and usage of 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 needs to be keenly considered. Once a company has gotten over a graduate worker who cannot deliver, they may not prefer to engage with this university down the road. Fake degrees bring with them a specific risk of harm to university reputation.
Being a sector, we must do more to combat fake universities and fake degrees. The key work undertaken with the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck is an excellent start, but awareness should 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 must shoulder some responsibility when recruiting staff. They should not only take every candidate and each document at face value. UK universities give 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.