As demand grows for online and distance learning, unfortunately so does the number of unethical and fraudulent institutions, leaving employers unsure of whether or not a candidate’s qualifications are genuine.
The Department for Education has commissioned Prospects to continue the fight against degree fraud with a new emphasis on international co-operation.
32 Fake Institutions Closed Down but 80% of fakes ‘outside UK’
Thirty two operators masquerading online as ‘genuine’ UK universities and colleges have been shut down since Prospects Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) was appointed last year by the former Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to reduce the number of unaccredited institutions by increasing prosecutions.
The Prospects HEDD fraud team has been working with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and other law enforcement agencies to force closure of operators violating the Education Reform Act.
However, around 80% of the fake universities reported to HEDD are based outside the UK and therefore cannot be prosecuted. Year two of the project will focus on dealing with offenders at a local level through international collaboration with the equivalent authorities overseas and the Groningen Declaration Network.
Jayne Rowley, director for Prospects HEDD said:
“We’ve made incredible progress over the last year, developing a shutdown process with law enforcement agencies and making alliances overseas, so we’re in a good place to make a bigger impact on offenders based outside our legal system.
“With the onset of the internet and distance learning degree fraud is a borderless crime and we must collaborate with agencies around the world to deal with it. We also need to get people thinking more about prevention. We’ve developed free toolkits for higher education providers and employers to help them develop policies on tackling degree fraud.”
Degree fraud and how employers can tackle it
As part of the project Prospects has been raising awareness of degree fraud. Degree verification through HEDD has increased 16% year-on-year. More than 116,000 checks and a total of 220 bogus institutions have been officially identified since the service launched in 2011.
Employers can check whether a university or college is an official degree awarding body by using the look-up service on hedd.ac.uk, and employers, universities and colleges are also able to download free toolkits to help them deal with degree fraud at hedd.ac.uk
Finally, if you suspect a candidate or organisation is committing degree fraud, you can report them to the HEDD fraud team on 0845 077 1968