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UK shuts down 32 fake universities, investigating 30 more

The UK government is cracking down on shady schools that hand out bogus degrees
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   05-08-2016

Photo by David Morris

UK law enforcement and trading standards agencies have shut down 32 fake universities out of 62 such institutions identified in the past year. Another 30 investigations are under way. The bogus schools were identified by a watchdog called the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD).

Of the 32 fake institutions closed, 25 were based outside of the UK and could not be prosecuted, according HEDD’s director, Jayne Rowley. HEDD is advising another four institutions, which are legitimate businesses, to let prospective students know that they cannot award UK degrees.

“All the ones that were shut down were completely bogus,” a recent report in The Guardian quotes Rowley as saying. Their websites reportedly spoke of campuses and students but there was nothing. Rowley cites a case that HEDD is working on, in which a university’s address is actually “an empty shop front in Hyde in Cheshire”.

In the past five years, 220 bogus UK universities have been identified, according to HEDD’s website. Most of them are defunct but, as Rowley notes, they are still a problem because employers often do not verify applicants’ qualifications. According to her, only around 20% of recruiters verify degree qualifications, and only two-thirds of employers even ask to see a degree certificate.

Rowley says things may get worse, as the UK the government plans to open up the sector and give instant degree-awarding powers to private providers with no prior education experience. She reckons that if the number of universities shoots up, it will be easier for bogus schools to do business.

Another recent report in The Telegraph notes that HEDD was commissioned last year to reduce the number of unaccredited institutions by increasing prosecutions, after a website in China was found to be selling degree certificates from dozens of UK universities for £500 each.

HEDD now plans to deal with offenders through international collaboration with the equivalent authorities overseas.

HEDD’s website offers a look-up service to check whether a university or college is an official degree-granting body, and free downloadable toolkits to help employers, universities, and colleges deal with degree fraud. The UK government also has a website where you can check if a university is officially recognized.



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