Do you have children or wards studying abroad, particularly in the UK? Imaging after spending thousands of pound-sterling or millions of naira for four or five years as the case may be; you then realise that the university your child attended was FAKE. ‘It is better imaging than experienced,’ you will say.
But many Africans, Nigerians, in particular, may have fallen victim of this scenario and are sulking quietly. Thousands of others will still fall, a victim, as they head for the UK this September.
Recent findings by a UK newspaper, The Guardian (International Edition) revealed that 75 bogus universities have been closed in the past four years, amid warnings that the business in fake degrees is undermining the reputation of the UK higher education system around the world.
The university watchdog the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd), which monitors fake degrees, has built up a register of 243 bogus institutions.
There is growing concern about students being mis-sold fraudulent degrees, with more than 200 potential cases of degree fraud under investigation since 2015.
Among the fake universities that came to Hedd’s attention was Manchester Open University, which was advertising degrees for fees of up to £35,000 on its website.
It claimed to have a campus on Oxford Road in the city, with 2,000 students from 90 different countries studying degrees in history, English and medicine, but officials called in to investigate were unable to find a trace of the institution.
In another case, the Oxbridge University of Kilmurry, which offered masters, doctorates and professional qualifications on its website, was found to be registered in the Gambia.
Jayne Rowley, the chief executive of Hedd, said: “Among the suspicious employers and fake certificates, we hear from genuine universities who spot fakes using their branding to attract students, collect personal information and course fees.
“This is damaging the reputation of our higher education system, but it is a global issue. The majority of websites are based outside the UK and therefore we need to collaborate more internationally.”
According to Hedd, bogus universities and degree mills attempt to make money from enrolment fees, premium phone lines and course fees. “This type of fraud is becoming more sophisticated,” Hedd’s guidance to higher education providers states, “with credible websites and verification services often modelled on their authentic counterparts – including the direct lifting of content and sections of material from genuine university websites.”
As well as reducing the number of fake institutions through investigation and awareness-raising, Hedd also hopes to combat degree fraud by getting employers and universities to make more verification checks when recruiting students and graduates.
“We need to focus more on prevention,” said Rowley. “If every employer properly checked the degree qualifications of every candidate there wouldn’t be a market for this type of fraud.”
Source: The Guardian (International Edition)