Diplomas can be taught in any subject, by anyone, regardless of credentials or experience, so how can we help students to know they’ve chosen a legitimate course?
Degrees have a clear value in most cultures around the world. If somebody says they have a degree, it’s a guarantee that they’ve committed to a certain amount of time at university, been taught by leading academics, and had their knowledge tested against regulatory frameworks. By the time a person enters the workplace, a degree is testament to the knowledge and experience they can bring to the job.
In recent years though, a new type of qualification has emerged – the diploma.
Unlike degrees, which can only be conferred after a university receives degree-awarding powers from the Office for Students, diplomas can be awarded by anyone. As a result, browsing diploma options as a student can be like navigating a minefield.
Fake it to make it
Many employers struggle to identify legitimate universities, so, understandably, the regulatory grey area of diplomas represents even more of a quandary. At best, an employer will take on a candidate whose experience and knowledge pales in comparison to those who have studied at accredited institutions.
At worst, employers can take on scammers whose desire to gain a shortcut to employment can put finances, reputation and even lives at stake. When we think of any professionals in whom we entrust our lives, we tend to think of them as qualified, level-headed individuals whose training puts you in safe hands.
What happens when a medical procedure causes harm because the practitioner lied about their qualifications? Or a plane crashes because the pilots have entirely fake licenses and are improvising in the air? These are just some examples of lives being put at risk because of fraud. The number of stories per year is incalculable, and we see new examples every week.
The impact on students
We regularly receive enquiries on the qualification fraud helpline (number at the end of this blog) from students who have invested significant money into a course, only to find out that the course was a sham and that the providers have taken off with their money.
It is sad but true to say that there is little chance of remediation for these students, especially as the scammers often take their earnings to other countries. Worse, the regulatory gap means that there is little to no legal basis for students to try and reclaim the funds. The money spent on courses often reaches more than £10,000.
The impact extends far beyond those who have been scammed. Students who undertake legitimate study can have their genuine knowledge overlooked in favour of those with dud diplomas.
Every job taken based on a bad diploma means one less for legitimate students in an already competitive market. This in turn fuels the cycle - prospective students might feel the conventional study route is not worth taking.
How can we help?
As part of Jisc’s Prospects Hedd service, we ensure degree providers meet quality standards according to regulatory frameworks. While we are in the process of expanding verification to further education (FE) and professional qualifications, there is currently no official service for employers to verify diplomas beyond approaching the provider directly.
Find out more
- Prospects Hedd university look-up service distinguishes between recognised universities and unrecognised providers, all for free and with no account required
- The helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8148 2400 provides free, impartial advice at all stages of the process
- Visit our developing a digital workforce page for training, advice, guides, and podcasts to do with supporting the workforce of the future