The counterfeiters: fake institutions escape clampdown

Database shows 271 bogus universities are still operating in the UK. Melanie Newman reports

January 22, 2010

The UK is host to hundreds of unaccredited institutions offering bogus degrees despite efforts to clamp down on fake qualifications.

A report from Verifile, a provider of CV screening services that compiles a global database of dodgy institutions, estimates that 1 bogus bodies are currently operating in the UK. It is second only to the US, which is reported to have 892 fake educational institutions. Britain is also home to more than half of Europe’s bogus institutions.

In a report published this week, Diploma and accreditation mills: Exposing academic credential abuse, Verifile says it has 3,307 unaccredited institutions on its database, of which 1,762 are “diploma mills”, which offer qualifications for cash online.

Eyal Ben Cohen, one of the authors of the report, said a further 1,545 “suspicious” institutions worldwide are being investigated.

Belford University, which purports to be based in the US, is typical of the sort of institutions included on the list. It offers bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees in 15 days on the strength of an online test or applicants’ “life experience”.

It says on its website that it is accredited by the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation.

Michigan’s Civil Service Commission lists these as unrecognised accrediting agencies.

Many of the fake institutions have titles similar to those of recognised institutions or use the names of famous British places, trading on the country’s reputation for excellence in education. Many of the establishments also use the Ascension Island web domain “.ac”, which resembles the regulated “.ac.uk” domain.

The report says: “The driving force behind many of the UK ‘visa factories’ exposed and shut down last year continues to live on.”

In 2009 the Home Office shut down the Manchester College of Professional Studies, which was exposed as having issued more than 600 bogus qualifications.

However, Verifile says in its report that Blackpool University, an unaccredited institution with which it was affiliated, is still operating.

It adds: “Blackpool University, which claims to be located in Dublin, is neither recognised as an Irish institution of higher education nor as a body with the power to award its own UK degrees.”

On its website, Blackpool University claims to be affiliated with at least ten other UK colleges.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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