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News

Bogus degrees proliferate in the UK

Verifile Limited : 22 January, 2010  (Technical Article)
The UK is the most prolific source of fake academic qualifications in Europe, warns Verifile after study shows league table of offending countries headed by the USA
Bogus degrees proliferate in the UK
A new Report exposes an international fake degree fraud even bigger than the scam exposed by the British press last year, which found thousands of fake 'language schools and colleges' acting as 'visa factories' to fuel immigration crimes.

Eyal Ben Cohen, Managing Director, Verifile Limited, a background screening firm in Europe, announced the release of the 'Accredibase Report.' Alarmingly, the UK was found to be Europe's fake university capital. The Report indicates that 271 degree mills have already been identified in the UK and many more still are under investigation. With 60 percent of the degree mills operating in the UK, the country has the dubious distinction of leading Europe in offering up these fraudulent entities that give students a short-circuited university degree and the capability to misrepresent themselves to employers.

The world's biggest concentration of fake universities is in the USA, the Report exposes 810 bogus institutions, making the US the center of the world's bogus university scam.

The groundbreaking report is the result of an 18-month international research project into diploma and accreditation mills - fake Universities and Colleges. The research was carried out by Verifile's research team with the support of Cambridge University and the East of England Development Agency. Alan Contreras of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization, one of the international leaders aggressively challenging fake universities, calls the Accredibase Report: "…an excellent job assembling facts about the degree mill problem in the world today. In the murky world of bogus credentials and dubious evaluators, The Accredibase Report provides an example of how research in this field ought to be done."

The Report discusses how these bogus Universities and Colleges con students out of their money and supply fake degrees that deceive employers into offering jobs, sometimes with alarming or fatal consequences. Eyal Ben Cohen stated: "We have so far identified 1,762 fake institutions worldwide, and we are still investigating a further 1,545 currently filed as 'suspicious' before publishing them on the 'Accredibase' database."

While many organizations dismiss fake degrees as a minor problem this report establishes that it is a much larger issue than expected. The stark reality is that some fake qualifications can be highly dangerous and have already resulted in tragic consequences. One case discussed in the Report lists the case of a Seattle 'Doctor', Brian O'Connell, whose degree in Naturopathic Medicine was not recognized by either the US Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The bogus doctor's 'care' hastened the death of a teenage cancer patient. Additional examples revealed in The Report include a fake doctorate holder who worked as a clinical director in a hospital as well as an eminent British forensic psychologist, Gene Morrison, who was convicted of raping three children. He was exposed as possessing a fake degree purchased in the US for $200. The Report also notes that fake degrees can make it easier for terrorists to infiltrate facilities by securing them jobs on the inside.

The Report elaborates on how the 'con' has become more sophisticated with fake universities setting up fake accreditation bodies in an attempt to make their qualifications look genuine. Emphasizing the magnitude of the problem, Eyal Ben Cohen commented: "We have so far discovered 134 unrecognised accreditation bodies, and we are still investigating a further 81. The problem of unaccredited institutions and bogus colleges is a large and very real one facing employers, background screening firms, government agencies and universities around the world."
A spokesperson at the Department of Business Innovation and Skills commented: 'Tackling the serious issue of bogus degrees at its source remains a challenge. The Department welcomes any innovative approach that further helps to disrupt the activities of bogus education providers, whilst safeguarding legitimate education and the public.'

As the Managing Director of a background screening firm Eyal added that his focus on creating this report was driven by his deep desire to provide his clients with valid information about applicants' education to support them in hiring qualified candidates. He also stressed that he wanted to avoid the embarrassment and potential liability associated with clearing an applicant that is later discovered to possess a bogus degree. As more focus is put on providing accurate information the need for his firm to verify the legitimacy of educational credentials will continue to increase. In addition as the practice of infinity screening (conducting background checks on current employees) continues to grow organizations are discovering that employees are using these diploma mills to weasel promotions that they have not earned.

"For prospective employers", advises Eyal Ben Cohen, "asking to see original certificates will not tell whether an institution is genuine since these institutions not only provide their 'student' with official-looking certificates but also provide verification services where employers and background screening companies can call to 'verify' if the student has the degree they claim! What is required is an accreditation check to see if the institution itself is genuine before even considering the validity of the certificate."
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