Online Education Fraud: Fake Universities, Colleges, and Masters

Online Education Fraud Fake Universities, Colleges, and Masters

Every good Higher Education Institution of standing needs to be concerned about the onslaught of online education fraud: fake universities, colleges, and masters are polluting the good name of traditional education providers. Not only legit universities, colleges and good postgraduate programs get tarred with the brush of disrepute – employers are especially vulnerable since they have been seen to fall for job applicants’ lies’ hook, line, and sinker’.  

The Higher Education Degree Data check or HEDD

Every Higher Education Institution worth its salt subscribes to the Higher Education Degree Data check or HEDD, a shared service that permits employers and statutory bodies and their agents to check basic degree and enrolment info about a course applicant. 

Developed and managed by Graduate Prospects Ltd, the HEDD system was born out of consultation with universities, employers, and screening agencies in its formative phase. HEDD is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). 

While the Higher Education Institution subscribes to HEDD, the HEI will submit the following parts of the course applicant’s educational record to HEDD for the following purposes:

  • Name; 
  • Date of birth; 
  • Course; 
  • Qualification;
  • Enrollment date;
  • Graduation date; 
  • Classification obtained; 
  • Dates of attendance. 

These details may reasonably be expected to be held in the HEDD system for the duration of the course applicant’s working life. 

The online candidate verification service permits registered enquiries to input data provided by the course applicant. The service is expected to check in real-time the info submitted against an encrypted dataset from the HEI’s student records, verifying to see if there’s matching. In particular circumstances where no verification is given, the query will arrive at the HEI for manual processing. 

An employer or agent that enquires the course applicant about you through HEDD has to get your consent in advance for every enquiry made. To use the service, that’s a condition. 

HEI staff has to have access to the courtside applicant’s data to handle inquiries made through the HEDD system. 

Naturally, a course applicant may opt-out of HEDD. However, employers would then be unable to check his credentials. 

HEDD: characteristics 

Hedd, therefore, gives employers, recruitment agencies, embassies and university postgraduate admissions teams to verify a candidate’s degree qualifications. 

Apart from verifying grades and qualifications, the employer may confirm attendance dates and if a UK university or college is a recognised degree-awarding body. 

  • Reliability 

Hedd is the official and most trusted degree verification service in the UK, recognised by the ‘Office for Students’ and supported by ‘Universities UK’. 

  • Efficiency 

Hedd presents a major approach to degree qualification verification, supported by a specialist customer services team. By doing away with the need to contact several institutions. 


  • By using Hedd an employer may be sure that candidates have the degree qualifications they claim to have, shielding the employer’s company/recruiter’s agency from degree fraud. 

How Hedd helps the Education Sector combat degree fraud 

Degree fraud is a multi-million pound industry that embraces fake universities, forged degree certificates, and essay mills, besides folk lying about their qualifications. 

Funded by the ‘Office for Students’, Hedd collaborates globally to fight degree fraud, securing the reputation and integrity of UK higher education. Hedd achieves this thus:

  •  Collaborating with enforcement bodies like the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and CIFAS, besides foreign agencies, to investigate and compel closures. Hedd has closed down more than 80 fake HEIs so far; making degree qualification verification and fake universities certificate spotting way easier; 
  • Publishing content and engaging in marketing that raises degree fraud awareness ; 
  • Presenting HEIs, employers, recruiting agencies, students and graduates with guidance and advice. 

Hedd advice for legit HEIs and Universities 

What exactly transpires when someone tries to pass himself off as a student of a legit University? Notwithstanding the fact that degree fraud threatens the basis of the Higher Education sector, the problem is little understood. 

What precisely is degree fraud? 

Degree fraud takes place when folk benefit purporting to have a degree-level qualification, Masters and P.hDs included. A university degree guarantees three things: that a student has finished a course of study; they possess a seal of approval from the University; they have garnered a certain grade. 

When a student studies at a recognised university, they can be certain they shall be properly readied for the world of work. A student without a degree from an unrecognised provider or no education at all does not possess the same quality guarantee. Rather than being a physical symbol of knowledge, a degree becomes a worthless piece of paper. 

Case study tidbit: 

Post embezzlement island involving fictitious bank accounts, an NHS top brass was discovered to have been economical with the truth about having a Masters, PhD, and military history. As a result, the courts fined him to the tune of GBP 300,000. 

Why should legit universities take an interest in combating degree fraud, fake degrees and fake universities?

While it’s true that a legit university has no direct involvement with degree fraud (and even less, has truck with fake degree issual and fake universities), the problem impacts honest providers as well: 

  • Reputational damage – if a scammer claims to have studied with you, it will reflect poorly on the legit Uni’s capacities;
  • IP Theft – to create persuasive counterfeits, scammers try to gain a large number of templates. The implication is that scammers are able to copy official documents that support their main lie;
  • The undermining of students – as an HEI, every legit University wants its students to succeed. When these enter the workforce and are treated at par with those with worthless/no qualifications, that value of their education stands compromised;
  • Poor performance – logically, a person with a fake universities degree/no degree can hardly hope to turn up a good performance to the degree that a legit degree-holder can;
  • Lower engagement – if word gets around that fake universities degrees are treated at par with real ones, students would hardly be bothered to spend effort, time, and money going after legit degrees; 
  • Increased demand – horrendous though it may sound, if no concerted action against the trend of fake universities degree acceptance is taken, your University stands to lose. The fake diploma mill will see its sales go through the roof, selling counterfeits of certificates issued by your Institution; 
  • Compromised grading – an allied problem is that of essay mills. Plagiarism-check proof essays bought from essay mils compromise grading, being unreflective of the skills and learning the student has garnered during the duration of the course. 

How does degree fraud come about? 

  • Fake universities and colleges 
    As an HEI, a legit Uni is expected to hold to specific quality standards to ascertain that students are shielded. With providers lacking recognition, there’s no such guarantee. There’s no system to their course materials. Whatever in that mess is readable will inevitably be found to have been plagiarized. 

    Fake universities may be original and entirely plausible – say, the University of Ridgeshire or their whole makeup might be plagiarized branding -Newcastle international University. All of them are sharers in one commonality – the degrees they issue are unregulated. 
  • Fake universities certificates 
    Safeguards may be in place to ascertain that degree certificates appear legit. Watermarks, paper types, counterfoils are just a number of ways that universities shield their degrees’ branding. However, scammers are easily able to poach security methods to make counterfeit certificates. 

    Fake universities certificates are a booming business. A few hundreds get an unscrupulous course/job applicant the counterfeit degree certificate of the University of his choice. Even seasoned student records professionals are left flabbergasted by some of the specimens on the market. 
  • Confidence tricks 
    A confidence trick can get the immoral applicant past the interview stage just because the company’s recruiting procedures are lax. Grade inflation and adding new ersatz qualifications can help any unscrupulous applicant in their charm offensive. Of course, it’s up to the recruiter to verify these details, either with Hedd or the University in question. 
  • Essay mills 
    Essay mills are a massive problem on their own. In fact, they can be said to be sapping UK universities’ strength from the inside at the moment. However, vigilance and proactive measures can stem the rot that’s setting in. 

    Better plagiarism checks have to be placed. This is the worst sort of corruption that could hollow out a nation’s higher education system. Accordingly, serious measures are called for in rewarding originality and awarding condign punishment to the wilfully erring. 


The guarantee of institutions being most secure against IP theft is when they look out for each other. A degree fraud case should always be reported. That’s the best example of solidarity amongst HEIs, too. Besides Hedd’s university database, there’s the Office for Students’ register for recognized providers. Between the two of them, these can give legit universities a valuable pool of resources so that new applicants’ documents can be better verified. Each legit University should also include a consent form for verification as standard during onboarding to persuade scammers. The implementation of a strong degree fraud policy helps universities, recruitment agencies and employers of all hues.

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