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Last Updated: Monday, 5 January, 2004, 13:52 GMT
Fake universities thrive on the web
Happy graduates typically adorn the "university" websites
Web-based bogus UK universities appear to be thriving despite the efforts of the authorities to shut them down.

Among those currently trading on the UK's reputation for academic excellence, to offer courses over the internet, is "Shepperton University", purportedly in London.

Its website states: "Maintaining academic integrity free from fraud and deception is an important objective of Shepperton University."

It is illegal to offer a degree qualification which could be taken to be that of a recognised UK institution - and there is no such university.

Greater Manchester - not

Calls to Shepperton's phone number divert to an international-sounding dial tone, followed by a recorded announcement asking people to leave their contact details.

Likewise, the "University of Dorchester" gives a mobile phone as its contact number and - again - all the registrars are busy.

Another curiosity is "GM University" which charges 3,200 for undergraduate degrees in eight subjects, mostly to do with information technology.

According to its website it is based in the British Virgin Islands as "Greater Manchester University Ltd", and claims to be accredited by an open learning association in the UK.

Elsewhere it says: "This University Based in the Isle of Man" adding: "Greater Manchester University is Register as a company with the Government of UK this University only offer none campus base Education through our Partner Organization or Institute around the world."

Shut down

Its stated "mission" includes the strange aim "... to promote the application of relevant knowledge to benefit the State of Vermont and society as a whole."

This appears to indicate it was copied from the (real) University of Vermont's website - Vermont, in the USA, being nowhere near Manchester, UK.

The genuine higher education institutions in Manchester are the University of Manchester, Umist (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology), Manchester Metropolitan University, and the University of Salford - which subtitles itself "a Greater Manchester University".

UK and US trading standards officials last year closed down 14 websites offering fake British degrees for up to 1,000 each.

The certificates, from 14 made-up institutions, were said to have been used by hundreds of unqualified people, mainly in North America, to gain jobs in areas such as teaching, computing and childcare.

The Department for Education and Skills warns people: "It is an offence in the UK for any organisation to offer a degree qualification which could be taken to be that of a recognised UK institution."

The website addresses of the bogus institutions are a quick giveaway, because they cannot obtain the bona fide ".ac.uk" domain - though it has been known for some to use ".ac", the Ascension Islands domain.

Bogus degree sites shut down
07 Mar 03  |  Education
'Fake doctor factory' awards degrees
26 Nov 00  |  Education

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