Sitting here, considering it, I don’t actually know where my degree certificate is, which is a cause of concern for a couple of reasons. First: that I am somehow absent-minded enough to work towards something to get the best component of 36 months, only to lose it. And secondly, that I’ve never actually needed it. Every job I’ve had since graduating – which happens to be admittedly only this one and cleaning toilets inside a museum – I’ve got without ever being forced to show anybody the proof of my qualification.
About this evidence, there seemed to be minimal point in me having studied from the beginning. I may at the same time have just spent several quid on the internet and bought myself an imitation degree. Saved myself the amount of money, the tears, the endless bottles of Iceland’s Lambrucini.
Because: people actually do this. Lots of everyone is buying Buy diploma online. The internet is full of them. Data dropped in the week via HEDD (Higher Education Degree Datacheck) revealing that more than 30 fake universities happen to be shut down in past times year. With some posing as actual institutions, others purporting to be online-based open learning programmes, the net has allowed an excessive proliferation of fake unis, there are concerns the problem is getting worse.
So how easy would it be? Can I actually get a degree online? How many universities out there are even real? Why am I wearing a child’s Darth Vader costume during my graduation photo? Did I even head to university?
To answer many of these questions, I first contacted Jayne Rowley, director of HEDD, for additional information in regards to the bullshit universities out there. “Well, it’s been a hidden problem,” says Jayne. “It was actually only really with creating the HEDD service four to five yrs ago that there’s been in any manner of building up a national picture of degree fraud.”
HEDD is actually a government-funded operation first set up in 2008, as central verification service for UK degrees – just before that, in the event you wished 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. “Which includes obviously thrown up several fake certificates, fake websites and queries about bogus universities.”
As outlined by Jayne, fake universities can be found in various forms. “You’ve got straightforward bogus operations, where there is not any university – they’re just generating a website to resemble a UK university. Those are very to dupe innocent potential students into thinking they’re trying to get a UK university, or perhaps to make people think they may be studying on a online learning course online, when they’re not. Those reel in innocent victims.”
Some “fake students”, however, are under innocent. One of the primary problems fake universities present are people buying fraudulent qualifications so that you can deceive employers. “You will find the websites which can be purely set up to back-up bogus certificates,” Jayne explains. “A very common thing is for people who have fake certificates to say, ‘Oh, you can check my certificate in the university website. Then you definitely go the web site – University of Wolverhamton minus the ‘p’ had been a popular one – enter the information on the certificate, plus a message returns saying, ‘This person is a bonafide graduate.'”
In terms of Jayne sees it, this is a real and growing trend. “In March this season, the danger Advisory Group published a study which screened 500 CVs and located major discrepancies with 70 % of which,” she says, “and of all of the discrepancies, 28 percent had issues with educational qualifications. People genuinely don’t see lying on his or her CVs like a criminal offence, however it is.”
This reminded me in the websites that did the rounds when I was at sixth form where you could buy “novelty” ID cards that let you squeeze through the doors of nightclubs. Surely receiving a degree wouldn’t be that easy?
Well yeah, actually. It took me about four seconds to land on Instant Degrees, a web site that provides courses including Afrikaans to accounting, and all you have to do is fill out 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 as a website just selling fake certificates and “not really bothering to pretend they can be a university”. Regardless of this, they can be very keen to stress how totally legal everything they have is. Within their words: “It is a valuable free service directed at above averagely intelligent people that understand value of having the capacity to instantly convert their existing knowledge in to a degree, quickly and legally.” That is a nice way of looking at it. It type of validates your dad’s mate Roger who is constantly banging on about how exactly degrees are a total waste of time and how he learnt everything he knows from “the University of Life”.
Further in the bullshit scale is Canterbury University. Their homepage is above. Now, it might seem you’ve read about Canterbury University. You haven’t; you’ve heard of Canterbury Christ Church University. Canterbury University is, Jayne tells me, one of the more blatant offenders still online. It even includes a page where degree holders can enter the code on the rear of their certificate to be able to “verify” their degree. But as Jayne indicates, it can be easy to debunk the university’s existence. “Google street view can be your friend when tracking down bogus institutions,” she tells me. That makes sense whenever you take a look at a street take a look at Canterbury University’s supposed address.
Jayne has put this method to the test herself. “We bought some coming from a guy who has been offering fake certificates for £6.95 with nectar points,” she explains. “People say ‘this is for novelty purposes’, but they’re not allowed to publish certificates which may have university trademarks about them; they are still in breach of copyright. Therefore we bought some, one is in brain surgery. The certificates came and they also had holograms, signatures, but usefully the eBay seller had sent them in an envelope with a return name and address in the back, therefore we handed them over to trading standards. Still got the nectar points though.”
University is seeming like an increasingly unrealistic prospect today, so it’s not surprising individuals are searching for alternatives, especially given that the grants system in the UK has been specifically scrapped. Sadly, however, the world of fake universities is really as treacherous as real ones. You might think you’re getting started with an absolutely legitimate Science of Feminism masters in the University of Bedford, only to discover yourself the newest victim in long-line played by the most dexkpky32 hustlers from the game. Either that, or you’re a hustler yourself, seeking to blag your way onto a grad-scheme by using a make believe degree you got on eBay. If that’s the situation, then beware: the heads at HEDD are onto you, fresher.