Survey: universities and education fraud – 75% cannot spot a fake certificate


UK NARIC recently surveyed university admissions staff to understand better the approaches they take to verifying international qualifications and dealing with fake certificates and fraudulent applications – a growing problem. Responses were received from 17 countries.

The survey results were intriguing. One surprising statistic to emerge is that only 25% of respondents felt confident they could spot fake qualification documents without assistance.

However, it is apparent that some institutions are devoting significant time and resource to verification – 62% said they conduct their own verifications direct with awarding institutions – although some respondents said that they verify direct not as a matter of course but only in cases which raise concern or doubt.

The survey revealed a range of approaches to verification. Some institutions rely on examining hard-copy qualification documents. In some countries, legalisation or apostille processes are used by institutions. Others use online verification methods, in combination with alternative processes when online checks are not available or not possible.

14% of institutions said that, in general, they don’t verify overseas qualification documents at all.

UK NARIC’s thinking on the verification issue is to offer institutions a spectrum of relevant resources and services that can be used in a variety of ways. This is an attempt to fit with what the survey appears to confirm – that institutions vary in their approaches and methods relating to verification.

UK NARIC members have online access to the extensive UK NARIC databases, files on countries and education systems, and institutional listings. This supports many fact checks such as correct names for qualifications and institutions, and checks on whether institutions are recognised in their home country.

The UK NARIC certificate bank, accessed from inside the International Comparisons database, contains thousands of images not only of final certificates but also of full transcripts. This supports further fact checking and also, of course, visual comparison of the certificate bank image with documents from applicants.

If admissions officers need personalised help for particular cases, then this is available from UK NARIC’s Member Enquiries service. A dedicated, experienced team handles member questions, and the team’s detailed responses can provide an expert second opinion and valuable advice in difficult cases. A 48-hour service is available on member enquiries.

UK NARIC member institutions are not always fully aware of all the information and features available in the UK NARIC databases, or are perhaps not thinking about how they could be used to assist with verification. UK NARIC offers regular training workshops, in the UK and worldwide, that can help members get the most out of the databases and online resources available. On-site training, tailored to your own specific requirements, can also be organised.

The concept of on-site practical training can be further extended to UK NARIC working with admissions teams, hands-on, to give additional support and capacity.

The idea of a verification service that can give definitive confirmation that a qualification is genuine, delivered fast and at reasonable cost through a single supplier, has led to UK NARIC launching its QCAS service – Qualification Checked At Source. QCAS can achieve verification of a degree, checked direct with the awarding institution, inside 10 days – in most cases, faster. A UK NARIC/QCAS certificate of verification is supplied, for student files and audit trails. An online dashboard makes ordering, administration and management quick and efficient.

The IT behind QCAS can also be integrated into an institution’s own online application and admissions process. Verification can then form part of the normal applicant journey – for selected subsets of applicants, if this is desired. Applicant-pay or institutional-pay models are possible. This system has already been successfully implemented by one major UK institution.

This UK NARIC spectrum of resources can support the verification efforts of admissions teams at all levels – from optimising the use of UK NARIC membership, through training and hands-on support, and towards certificated verification and even fully integrated verification systems.

UK NARIC is always interested in talking to institutions to find out more about how they approach and handle verification, and to offer advice or support. Would you like us to visit? We’d be glad to hear from you: email philip.cernik@naric.org.uk

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