There is no money to be made by former polytechnics selling university-style certificates to their alumni, the pioneers of the scheme have concluded.
Middlesex invested Pounds 35,000 in setting up its scheme offering certificates featuring university regalia to graduates from its polytechnic days.
But three years after its launch, the service has barely broken even, an experience shared by other new universities who invested time and money in similar projects.
Nearly 700 Middlesex Polytechnic graduates have paid the Pounds 50 required for a calligraphed certificate showing that their alma mater went on to become a university.
This is the highest take-up rate discovered in a survey by The THES, which found Oxford Brookes had sold 406 certificates at a cost of Pounds 30 each, the University of Westminster (Pounds 30) had sold just over 300, Portsmouth (Pounds 35) 150, Staffordshire (Pounds 45) 40 and the University of East London (Pounds 50) just eight.
"We have not made any money out of it because they are very good quality certificates with the crest and three colours on," said Bobby de Joia, press officer at Middlesex University. The start-up costs included a new computer database of past graduates' awards.
"They simply identify our alumni with the university which I think is important," she said, adding that many pre-1992 certificates were validated by the CNAA.
"People have certificates from an institution that no longer exists and from an awarding body which no longer exists. We are trying to say we have not forgotten them, that they are still part of this institution."
Middlesex sees the certificate upgrade as simply one of its services to alumni, not as a profit-making enterprise.
"We found out very early on that this was not a money-making exercise but it might be some time in the future. What it gets us in goodwill is important," said Mrs de Joia.
"The certificates themselves are very attractive and I have a feeling that there are 700 of them up on walls around the world and that is worth a lot to us."
She added that the university had caught two fraudulent applications since the scheme started.
A spokeswoman for Oxford Brookes said most of its applicants were from people looking for work overseas where the name polytechnic was not well understood.
Christine Hodgson at the University of East London added: "I was surprised people wanted them at all. Alumni are told it is available but I think most people are quite satisfied with their original certificate."