Will you be fooled into convinced that the University of Devonshire existed? How would you like 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 buy fake diploma, set up with websites appearing like these people were licensed universities. Thankfully, these fake institutions have long since been de-activate, though the qualifications they issued may still remain in use.
And also this is only the tip of iceberg, because new fake universities appear constantly. The method to setup a fake university could be easy – a convincing website address with an educational website installed from the template should do it. And with the addition of relevant text, sometimes plagiarised from a true university website, the deception is finished.
Recently, greater 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 to get a fake certificate, which would state that they had achieved anything around doctorate level qualifications.
Most of the websites shut down through the Advanced Schooling Degree Datacheck used names near to the ones from real universities – such as the supposed “Stafford University”. This seemingly operated around the laurels of the legitimate Staffordshire University.
During my 10 years employed in academic integrity research, I’ve run into 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 one time. Buying a whole qualification outright surpasses this, circumventing any chance that students have of learning.
Fake universities and diploma mills operate with some other levels of subtlety and sophistication. Some fake universities claim so as to issue awards based upon “life experience”. To get a fee, they enable people to demonstrate that they’ve already gained the relevant skills necessary for a qualification – and so 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 never be marked, but tend to fool people into thinking these folks were getting a legitimate course. Many fake universities dispense with pretence and simply ask for payment for an award.
But a much more elaborate enterprise model employed by a little number of fake universities also has emerged. These offer subscriptions where they keep up the pretence their fake qualifications are legitimate. They have also been found to provide services to make sure that that qualifications they awarded exist, combined 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 genuine article. Fraudsters with entry to top quality 12dexppky equipment can produce these to order. They are able to even are the elaborate seals and holograms found on the real documents.
Some sites state that these certificates are simply “novelty items”, however, there is no text in the purchased certificates to suggest this. And is particularly easy for those that have desktop publishing skills and usage of templates or photographs of real degree certificates to knock up their very own convincing fake versions.
With employability at the forefront of many universities, this is basically the link together with the commercial world where the possibility of fake degrees needs to be keenly considered. Once a company is taking on the graduate worker who cannot deliver, they will not desire to engage with the university in the future. Fake degrees bring using them a clear probability of injury to university reputation.
Being a sector, we should do more to combat fake universities and fake degrees. The important work undertaken through the Higher Education Degree Datacheck is a superb start, but awareness needs to go further. Every university needs to understand about the imposters trading on its name, along with the sites offering fake qualifications claiming to be from that university.
Employers too must shoulder some responsibility when recruiting staff. They must not merely take every candidate and every document at face value. UK universities provide a service where qualifications could be verified. Some offer this verification directly. Other universities refer employers to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck or similar services which have been set up for this function.