Prospects Hedd, the degree fraud service run by Jisc, has closed 85 websites selling degrees from fake UK universities.
The government tasked Prospects Hedd to identify and target bogus institutions and perpetrators of degree fraud in 2015. It has since identified and investigated 310 potential cases of universities offering fake UK degrees – a rise of 67 since 2019.
Those shut down include Newcastle Business College, which was offering fake MBA and DBA degree qualifications. While claiming to enrol thousands of British students every year, it had no geographical basis in the UK and the telephone number went only to voicemail. Investigation showed it was run out of the Middle East.
In another case, European University of Business offered a range of undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications through an ineligible ‘ac.uk’ website.
The Prospects Hedd fraud service team works with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and other law enforcement agencies internationally to apply trademark, copyright or forgery legislation to force closure of operators.
Chris Rea runs the Prospects Hedd degree fraud service at Jisc. He said:
“Given the nature of these websites, which can close as quickly as they appear, there are many more fraudulent operators than our official figures tell us. In fact, it is very likely there are as many, if not more, than the UK institutions that are genuine.
“Our higher education system is deemed by many to be among the best in the world, but when the market is swamped with fake providers it puts that reputation at risk. The only way to stop these operators is to remove the demand. This means verifying the degrees of anyone who comes into your organisation. Be absolutely sure that they are who they say they are and that they have the qualifications to do the job or study they applied for.”
Prospects Hedd is involved in the QAA-led Academic Integrity Charter for UK Higher Education. It is inviting universities and colleges to sign up to the charter, committing to promoting academic integrity and taking action against academic misconduct.
Prospects Hedd’s free online tool enables users to check whether a UK university or college is a recognised degree-awarding body.
Organisations can verify degree qualifications or report degree fraud at Prospects Hedd.