Phony College Degrees a Worldwide Problem
The Malaysian Star has published an excellent story about the widespread practice of degree-purchasing through bogus online schools. The paper put together an investigative team that delivered a lengthy and fact-ridden expose worthy of the days when newspapers could afford to devote substantial resources to the news-gathering side of the business.
Star’s story reports that degrees can be had cheaply, “…starting from a few hundred ringgit …” and completed in a few minutes via an online transaction. According to the story, many prominent Malaysians, “…including lawmakers from both sides of the political divide…” have secured bogus degrees. None, however, were willing to comment.
Awarding a bogus degree can be a comprehensive effort. Some include an academic transcript, a certificate of distinction and an award of excellence, plus verification from the university’s (fictional) registrar. Then there are the package deals – buy three for the price of two. You can obtain a Bachelors, Masters and PhD in one envelope at a special discounted price. Delivery guarantees are between one and two weeks.
The Irish International University (IIU) is one such institution, registered as a business in Ireland but with a headquarters in Malaysia. The Dublin Metropolitan University has its main office in Cyprus. In the case of IIU, Irish authorities recognize that their business is fraudulent, but they remain a going concern in Ireland that pays Irish taxes every year. There is even an accreditation body for IIU, the QAC-UK Ltd – or Quality Assurance Commission. However a BBC report on the scam showed that the accrediting body is managed by the same people that operate IIU.
Irish education administrators suggest that any foreign students considering enrolling in an online Irish college consult Students planning to take up Irish courses are advised to consult the list of higher education providers on Education Ireland or refer to Ireland’s National Framework of Qualifications.
The two largest sources of phony degrees are the United States and the UK. In the United States, students can check the database maintained by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education also has a database of accredited schools on their website.
The “diploma mills” in the United States have been drawing a lot of news coverage lately because of the surge in online learning at all educational levels. Distance learning is well on its way to becoming a mainstream educational option, and as with every new cultural development online study is drawing its share of scam artists.
For the UK, students can check if the name of the institution appears on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) website, and if the institutions’ own website address ends with .ac.uk. Another option is checking whether or not an institution is accredited by checking the UK’s Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills.