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Monday, 17 January, 2000, 15:20 GMT
BA without the honours - bogus degrees online
By BBC News Online's John Venables

If you're looking for a highly intelligent, personable and literate scribe I just thought I would take this opportunity to flag up my availability.

I have many years' experience in the BBC. I am also the holder of a first class honours degree from Cambridge and an MA from London University. I would be pleased to submit copies of my degree certificates should these be of interest.

Actually, I lied about the degrees. But obtaining the bogus certificates would cost me just five minutes search on the internet and about 200 cash.
False qualifications can be fatal in the medical world
A survey by Europe's largest credit reference agency, Experian, has revealed that lying in job applications is widespread. A fifth of companies questioned complained that some job applicants fabricated evidence of higher education.

More than half the 1,500 employers said it is a serious problem.

In some jobs, especially health care posts, false qualifications can be potentially dangerous or even lethal.

Among cases which have come to light are those of:

  • a nutritionist who was not qualified and had in fact abandoned an English degree part way through her course;

  • a senior psychologist with a county council who had lied about all his qualifications;

  • and a bogus doctor who wrecked relationships with unfounded diagnoses of venereal diseases. He turned out to be a barely educated lab technician.

To make it easier for employers to verify applicants' claims Experian has teamed up with the Higher Education Statistics Agency, or HESA, to offer a quick check service, called Q Check.

For a fee they will consult school and college records and advise a potential employer on the results.

"What higher education is concerned about is that up to now there has been no easy way for employers to check qualifications.

"Doing so was time consuming and costly and often involved a series of phone calls," says Experian spokesman Bruno Rost.

Q Check should take less than a day, he claims.

Boasts

It's not difficult to obtain false certificates. BBC News Online has discovered one source in Liverpool that offers a wide range of realistic degree certificates and diplomas on the Internet.
Scroll of honour: The university degree is still highly sought after
Starting from scratch with no guidance on where to find the site we located the source using a normal search engine and a bit of guesswork.

The site offers "authentic looking Fake Degree certificates and Impressive Diploma's [sic] from Educational Establishments throughout the World, including, U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and many other Countries."

"Due to my success in being able to supply these authentic looking documents around the world I have been referred to as the 'Magician'," the operator boasts.

For 100 you get a diploma of your choice. For 200 you get a degree.

Injunction

It is understood the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals has taken out an injunction to stop the site operating, but apparently to no avail.

Under the new system employers will pay Experian an annual fee and between 15 and 35 a query to verify qualifications.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency collects data from 170 universities and higher education colleges throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"It's a facility that will enable employers to confirm graduate qualifications without compromising individual confidentiality.

"This can only be to the benefit of higher education and their graduates," says HESA Chief Executive Brian Ramsden.

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