According to Jisc, a UK higher education technology and IT agency, over the past five years, 85 fake UK university websites have been shut down as part of the government’s crackdown on degree fraud.
Counterfeit degrees are becoming increasingly problematic as job candidates seek differentiation in a competitive labor market.
Among the fake colleges that were closed was Newcastle Business College, which claims to take thousands of British students to campus every year, but the UK had no physical buildings and phone numbers sent only by voicemail. Research shows that the Middle East offers fake MBA and DBA qualifications.
Another bogus institution, the European University of Business (not related to the Warsaw and Berlin-based institutions of the same name), provided undergraduate and graduate qualifications using the ac.uk academic domain name, which the educational institution registers through the government.
The closure is the result of a crackdown on a fraudulent website pretending to be a real university launched by the government in 2015 to protect the international reputation of UK universities. This initiative, run by Jisc’s Prospects Hedd degree fraud service, has since been investigated as 310 institutions have offered fake degrees.
Chris Rea, who runs Prospects Hedd, said he has seen an increase in qualification fraud in recent years, especially with regards to degrees and diplomas. Combined with the competitive job market, economic downturn and general anxiety, more people are working online. It is vulnerable and is used by scammers.
Rea encouraged employers to carefully examine the qualifications of new employees. The only way to stop these operators, he said, is to eliminate demand.
Some websites sold fake degree certificates issued by real universities. A 2014 BBC study found a website selling Kent University’s fake degree certificates for 500, which was described as being for novelty purposes or as a replacement for a lost diploma.
Given the nature of these websites that can close quickly as they appear, there are more fraudulent operators than the official figures say. In fact, if not more than the real British institution, Rea said.
Education morale is on the rise as a result of the pandemic in the UK, and essay mills are booming to 932 in operation. On February 10, former university secretary Chris Skidmore warned that it would introduce a 10-minute rule bill to Commons trying to outlaw essay writing services in the UK, compromising irreparable academic integrity.
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