Sitting here, thinking about it, I don’t actually know where my degree certificate is, that is a reason for concern for 2 reasons. First: that we am somehow absent-minded enough to be effective towards something to find the best element of 36 months, just to lose it. And secondly, that I’ve never actually needed it. Every job I’ve had since graduating – that is admittedly only that one and cleaning toilets within a museum – I’ve got without ever being forced to show anybody the proof of my qualification.
On this evidence, there was very little part of me having studied to start with. I may as well have just spent a couple of quid online and bought myself a fake degree. Saved myself the amount of money, the tears, the endless bottles of Iceland’s Lambrucini.
Because: people actually do this. Plenty of individuals are buying buy college diploma. The web is loaded with them. Data dropped in the week via HEDD (Higher Education Degree Datacheck) revealing that over 30 fake universities are already shut down in the past year. With a few posing as actual institutions, others purporting to get online-based open learning programmes, the world wide web has allowed an excessive proliferation of fake unis, and there are concerns the problem is getting worse.
So how easy would it be? May I actually have a degree online? Just how many universities out you will even find real? Why am I wearing a child’s Darth Vader costume inside my graduation photo? Did I even visit university?
To answer a number of these questions, I first contacted Jayne Rowley, director of HEDD, to learn more regarding the bullshit universities available. “Well, it’s been a hidden problem,” says Jayne. “It was actually only really with putting together the HEDD service 4 to 5 in the past that there’s been in whatever way of building up a national picture of degree fraud.”
HEDD can be a government-funded operation first set up in 2008, as central verification service for UK degrees – prior to that, when you desired to check somebody’s degree was legit you have to make it happen from the university themselves, which put a great deal of employers off. “Since we went live we’ve done over 160,000 verification checks,” Jayne adds. “That has obviously thrown up numerous fake certificates, fake websites and queries about bogus universities.”
In accordance with Jayne, fake universities come in various forms. “You’ve got straightforward bogus operations, where there is absolutely no university – they’re just generating a website to look like a UK university. Those are really to dupe innocent potential students into thinking they’re applying for a UK university, or even to make people think they are studying on the online learning course online, when they’re not. Those reel in innocent victims.”
Some “fake students”, however, are under innocent. The most significant problems fake universities present are people buying fraudulent qualifications so that you can deceive employers. “There are the websites which can be purely set up to back-up bogus certificates,” Jayne explains. “A really common thing is for people who have fake certificates to mention, ‘Oh, you should check my certificate about the university website. You then go the website – University of Wolverhamton minus the ‘p’ was really a popular one – enter into the information on the certificate, along with a message comes back saying, ‘This person is a bonafide graduate.'”
So far as Jayne sees it, this really is a real and growing trend. “In March this coming year, the Risk Advisory Group published a report which screened 500 CVs and discovered major discrepancies with 70 percent of those,” she says, “and of all discrepancies, 28 percent had complications with educational qualifications. People genuinely don’t see lying on the CVs as a criminal offence, yet it is.”
This reminded me from the websites that did the rounds when I was at sixth form where you could buy “novelty” ID cards that allow you to squeeze with the doors of nightclubs. Surely getting a degree wouldn’t be so simple?
Well yeah, actually. It took me about four seconds to land on Instant Degrees, a site that provides courses which range from Afrikaans to accounting, and all you need to do is complete a form. Above is my application for a degree in feminism – a qualification I obtained on the tender chronilogical age of seven.
Jayne describes Instant Degrees like a website just selling fake certificates and “not actually bothering to pretend these are a university”. Regardless of this, they are very keen to stress how totally legal everything they have is. In their words: “It is a valuable free service directed at above averagely intelligent those who understand the price of having the capacity to instantly convert their existing knowledge right into a degree, quickly and legally.” That is a nice way of checking out it. It form of validates your dad’s mate Roger who may be constantly banging on about how degrees are a waste of time as well as how he learnt everything they know from “the University of Life”.
Further in the bullshit scale is Canterbury University. Their homepage is above. Now, you may think you’ve heard of Canterbury University. You haven’t; you’ve been aware of Canterbury Christ Church University. Canterbury University is, Jayne tells me, one of the most blatant offenders still online. It even features a page where degree holders can enter into the code on the back of their certificate as a way to “verify” their degree. But as Jayne highlights, it is not too difficult to debunk the university’s existence. “Google street view is your friend when tracking down bogus institutions,” she tells me. That makes sense when you look at a street look at Canterbury University’s supposed address.
Jayne has put this procedure for the test herself. “We bought some from the guy who was offering fake certificates for £6.95 with nectar points,” she explains. “They say ‘this is for novelty purposes’, but they’re banned to publish certificates who have university trademarks about them; they are still in breach of copyright. And then we bought some, one was in too tricky. The certificates came plus they had holograms, signatures, but usefully the eBay seller had sent them inside an envelope having a return name and address in the back, so we handed them up to trading standards. Still got the nectar points though.”
University is seeming like an increasingly unrealistic prospect these days, so it’s no surprise people are searching for alternatives, especially given that the grants system in britain has been scrapped. Sadly, however, the world of fake universities is as treacherous as real ones. It might seem you’re subscribing to an absolutely legitimate Science of Feminism masters in the University of Bedford, only to discover yourself the latest victim in long-line played from the most dexkpky32 hustlers from the game. Either that, or you’re a hustler yourself, trying to blag your way onto a grad-scheme by using a make believe degree you got on eBay. If that’s the way it is, then beware: the heads at HEDD are onto you, fresher.