Would you be fooled into convinced that the University of Devonshire existed? How would you like to own a qualification through the University of Wexford? Or does graduating from your University of Palmers Green appeal?
They were all trading names in the fake college diploma, set up with websites giving the impression of these were licensed universities. Thankfully, these fake institutions have got all long since been turn off, even though qualifications they issued may still be in use.
And this is simply the tip of iceberg, because new fake universities appear at all times. The procedure to put together a fake university might be easy – a convincing website name with an educational website installed from your template should do it. Along with the addition of relevant text, sometimes plagiarised from an actual university website, the deception is done.
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 they had achieved anything as much as doctorate level qualifications.
A lot of the websites shut down by the Higher Education Degree Datacheck used names in close proximity to the ones from real universities – such as the supposed “Stafford University”. This seemingly operated on the laurels in the legitimate Staffordshire University.
During my 15 years operating in academic integrity research, I’ve run into many methods students use to assert qualifications they don’t deserve. My work with contract cheating, where students pay others to perform their assessments, revealed a network of students looking to develop their degree one fake assignment at one time. Buying a whole qualification outright goes beyond this, circumventing any chance that students have of learning.
Fake universities and diploma mills operate with different degrees of subtlety and sophistication. Some fake universities claim so that you can issue awards based on “life experience”. For any fee, they permit customers to demonstrate that they’ve already gained the skill sets necessary for a qualification – and so they 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 never be marked, but could fool people into thinking these people were having a legitimate course. Many fake universities dispense with pretence and only demand payment to have an award.
But a far more elaborate enterprise model used by a compact number of fake universities also has emerged. These offer subscriptions where they maintain the pretence that the fake qualifications are legitimate. They also have been found to offer services to verify that qualifications they awarded exist, together with fake job references.
It’s also possible to purchase a fake degree certificate for any real university. This certificate often looks just like the genuine article. Fraudsters with entry to top quality 12dexppky equipment can produce these to order. They could even are the elaborate seals and holograms located on the real documents.
Some sites report that these certificates are only “novelty items”, there is however no text around the purchased certificates to suggest this. Which is possible for people 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 at the forefront of many universities, this is basically the link using the commercial world where the danger of fake degrees should be keenly considered. Once an employer has gotten with a graduate worker who cannot deliver, they are going to not desire to engage with this university down the road. Fake degrees bring with them a definite chance of problems for university reputation.
Being a sector, we must 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 become from that university.
Employers too have to shoulder some responsibility when recruiting staff. They ought to not simply take every candidate and each document at face value. UK universities give you a service where qualifications can be verified. Some offer this verification directly. Other universities refer employers towards the Higher Education Degree Datacheck or similar services which have been set up for this specific purpose.