UK NARIC launches new On-site Support and Training days


UK NARIC has launched a new training service – On-site Support, delivering tailored training and hands-on support to teams and small groups of staff at their own offices. Our new service was launched in Wales, with the first subscriber member requesting a support day being Swansea University.Singleton Abbey The training was delivered at the beautiful Singleton Abbey (pictured) on Swansea’s campus. 20 staff from Swansea’s undergrad admissions, postgrad admissions and marketing teams took part in a tailored day that included Tier 4 compliance and ensuring best practice in counterfraud measures. Feedback was positive:

“Pleasant, easy going instructors delivering at a level that was easy to understand”

“Examples of actual documents were helpful”

“Tier 4 Compliance – importance of recording and keeping records of evidence of qualifications and any guidance notes relating to them”

“Be vigilant when checking applications”

On-site support days can be completely tailored and customised to suit particular needs. A series of ‘Fast Modules’ on core topics has been developed which serve as building blocks for a day’s programme, but these can be also be flexed and tailored to suit requirements. For information on UK NARIC’s training solutions or updates on our latest schedule of half day workshops and full day seminars, go to our website.


Fraud: a growing problem in education, and how to guard against it


‘I didn’t know fraud was so common, so widespread’ – that’s the comment UK NARIC hears again and again from the university and college staff who attend its fraud workshops and seminars.

UK NARIC has been running its fraud training for over eight years – so we have trained a lot of staff from HE institutions. And in that time, we have had to develop the training year-on-year, because fraud has definitely become more common, and the fraudulent techniques adopted have become more elaborate.

The rise in numbers of international applications has increased the challenge for admissions staff – there are more applications to be sifted and checked, and from a greater variety of places, so staff have to learn and become familiar with an ever-wider array of qualification certificates and ID documents.

UK universities and colleges are in an uncomfortable position at the immigration front line. Due diligence on applications has to be completed, and the evidence and audit trails all have to be there, to justify decisions taken and to demonstrate to the Home Office auditors that robust systems are in place.

Establishing with certainty the identity of an applicant is first base. Fake ID documents are a growing problem, but so too are genuine documents obtained illegally. Check across all documents supplied looking for discrepancies in the name and in age/date of birth. Any changes in name, eg due to marriage, should of course be supported by the necessary further documents – marriage certificates etc.

Be aware that there is a growing trade in fake EU passports – a popular choice as these give entry to any EU country without a visa. You will need to learn passport security features and check that documents have all of these. Some inexpensive equipment will help – most security features can be checked with a magnifying glass and a black light (UV-A lamp).

Social media can be a useful help to you. Check on a person’s ‘web imprint’. Do their Facebook posts match their claimed age and educational history? Do locations match – during their claimed years of study, have they been posting online from the university town you would expect? Facebook and other social media image uploads can also help with checking passport photos.

This certificate was submitted to UK NARIC. Is it real, or a fake? Applying the simple checks given provides the answer. Some fake certificates are easy to detect, others are more difficult.

This certificate was submitted to UK NARIC. Is it real, or a fake? Applying the simple checks given provides the answer. Some fake certificates are easy to detect, others are more difficult.

When it comes to qualifications, the first challenge is to check that the issuing institution is fully recognised. With such high numbers of applications coming from India and China, you may well encounter certificates from an unrecognised institution – there are many of them in these huge countries. Those of you who are subscriber members of UK NARIC will know that you can access full listings of recognised institutions in each country using our online data banks.

The next stage is to check if the certificate is genuine. If you are receiving a good number of international applications, you can and should build a library of certificates over time, to act as a live reference base against which incoming certificates can be compared.

Check certificates for all the obvious things first – all spelling should be correct; check all alignment – are type and graphics all properly centred and is everything straight? Check that dates are rendered correctly and that they make sense in terms of the qualification. A more advanced level of checking would be to examine the signatures on the degree certificate – not only that the signature matches the genuine signature for the person named, but also that the Vice Chancellor or Principal named is correct in terms of the date of issue of the document.

Print quality is not always a good guide to genuineness. Some recognised and well-established institutions in developing countries issue degree certificates that are not especially ‘well printed’. But type and graphical alignment will still be accurate.

UK NARIC would always advise that you do not rely on the degree certificate alone, but that you also obtain a transcript. This gives you further information to check against – module marks can be checked against the final degree classification; award titles should tally; course duration can be checked against the standards and norms for the country. If you cannot obtain a transcript from the applicant then you can request one direct from the institution.
A good general knowledge of countries’ education systems is a useful asset for anyone doing these sorts of checks. UK NARIC offers advice and support to universities and colleges in all these areas – visit www.naric.org.uk to find out more.

Steve Miller, May 2015 This post was originally published on The PIE News Blog.


UK NARIC helping with Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor Compliance


Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.

 

 

Universities and colleges across the country need to comply with strict guidelines to bring students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to study in the UK.  There have been high profile suspensions of universities and colleges which have failed to comply with these guidelines resulting in significant damage to the reputation of the institution as well as having a meaningful effect on revenues.

There are no hard and fast rules on how education providers can ensure they can keep their Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, but it is apparent that demonstrating good practice in the recruitment of international students is an important step in the right direction.

Working with institutions and the Home Office UK NARIC has been able to identify the following areas as being important steps in being able to help institutions keep or achieve HTS and thereby achieve compliance.

Compliance is the Key

In order to bring students to the UK from outside the EEA universities and colleges need to have HTS status.  HTS is something that is “given” to education providers by the Home Office.  Having, and keeping, HTS is the main aim of all education institutions that engage in the recruitment of international students.

The best way to gain and maintain HTS is to be compliant with the Home Office’s sponsor requirements.

There are numerous criteria to which institutions have to comply and we feel that it is useful to highlight four areas:

  • Adopting best practice
  • Ability to follow a course
  • Counter fraud
  • English Language Proficiency

Adopting best practice

Education providers in the UK need to clearly demonstrate that they are using tried and tested processes to identify and evaluate potential students from outside the EEA.  The Home Office are not going to tell higher education institutions or colleges how they should market themselves or whether they are over-estimating the abilities of an individual; but they do want to see that there are policies and procedures and that the institution is following good practice.

Policies and Procedures

When it comes to evaluating applicants from outside the EEA institutions need to show that they are being consistent.  Universities and colleges need to be able to demonstrate that they have a system in place.  Using UK NARIC’s data is one way of doing this.  All UK NARIC’s members are entitled to a “Membership Certificate”.  This does not mean that UK NARIC accredits the institution (if you become aware of any institution claiming to be accredited by UK NARIC please let us know!), it simply confirms that the institutions is a member of UK NARIC and therefore has access to our data and services.  The Membership Certificate clearly shows that the institution is using “an independent authority” to help them evaluate the qualifications of international applicants.  If you are a member of UK NARIC and you would like to order a Membership Certificate please contact your Account Manager.

There are a number of other criteria that can be used to demonstrate good practice and we could fit many blog articles with them.  However, it is worth highlighting a couple more:

Staff development: Make sure that relevant staff are kept up-to-date with the latest developments in education internationally.  This can be done through Newsletters; there are a number of relevant newsletters available (QAA, UUK’s International Unit, AUA, UK NARIC).  Additionally, staff could attend training courses and conferences.  UK NARIC runs a number of professional development courses that have been designed for this purpose; additionally UCAS, UKCISA and many other organisations run courses and conferences throughout the year.  Finally, it is important to keep up-to-date with immigration policy; UK NARIC is now running events that are specifically design to help higher education professionals to do this.

Admissions Policy: An Admissions Policy should set out the way in which an institution evaluates applicants.  It should be readily available and it should provide information on the sources of information staff should use to make decisions.  Which sources of information does your institution use: internal databases? UK NARIC? Any other sources?  These should all be listed.  Additionally, if your institution has particular policies on an institution, country or region this should be detailed in the Policy.  The Policy should cover how you deal with Agents and what relationship you have with Agents.

Ability to follow a course

Under Tier 4 institutions should only issue a CAS once they are satisfied that a student both intends and is able to follow the course of study concerned.

The key point here is being able to assess an individual’s ability.

This can be done through the applicant’s previous qualifications, their performance in an admissions test or through interview.  If an institution is using previous qualifications to assess an applicant’s suitability, then they need to “confirm any qualifications the student already has which make them suitable for the course” on the CAS, i.e. use UK NARIC’s data.

Assessing a student’s suitability is very important.  It is the way in which institutions can be sure they have a committed student; but how can institutions be sure that the qualifications are genuine?

Counter fraud

We have covered education fraud in another article in this blog, and it is important that higher and further education institutions develop systems and processes to combat education fraud (in fact it should be covered in the Admissions Policy!).

The Home Office’s view on fraud is:

“We would encourage Sponsors to take all reasonable steps to verify the authenticity of a document; it is in the Sponsor’s interests to do so

Rooting out the non bona fide applications before issuing a CAS would save them from paying a CAS fee for a student who won’t enter the UK.

If an institution repeatedly sponsors applicants with non bona fide documents it may affect their Sponsor rating and could ultimately lead to their removal from the register.”

Therefore, it is vitally important that institutions wishing to gain or maintain HTS have a way of finding out whether a qualification is bogus.  Members of UK NARIC are able to use the Counter Fraud Service which will provide members with the knowledge needed to be able to make better judgments about whether a qualification is legitimate.  There is also the Degrees of Deception publication and a training course.

English Language Proficiency

There have been examples of when students have used bogus English language qualifications to enter the UK. The Home Office has established criteria for those wishing to study in the UK. There are a number of different ways in which applicants can show that they meet the different levels that have been specified, please refer to the Tier 4 guidance policy.

Tim Buttress, June 2013

 

 

Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.


Keep up-to-date with combating education fraud


Education fraud is once again a hot topic:

  • In Saudi Arabia the Arab News reported that the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE) have so far discovered 1,050 engineers who were practicing despite not holding genuine qualifications.  These engineers were nationals of 20 different countries.
  • In India, police recently arrested two immigration agents following a tip off that they were producing fraudulent degrees and travel documents.  The leaders of the gang have supposedly absconded.
  • A political scandal has erupted in Malaysia after five election candidates were accused of having purchased their university qualifications.  Some of the candidates claimed to have been awarded degrees by institutions which have been exposed as diploma mills.
  • In Pakistan 54 MPs were found to have fraudulent qualifications; some were classified as fake while others were considered invalid as, although the MPs had graduated from the programme listed, they did not have the intermediate certificates required to enter the course.

In order to equip university admissions officers and employers with essential knowledge on fraud in education, UK NARIC offers the training session Degrees of Deception: Combating Education Fraud. This practical course covers the varying types of education fraud and the features to look out for on genuine and fraudulent documents. Session are held throughout the year, to book a place on this popular and informative course, please complete the training booking form or contact your Account Manager.


MPs with fake degrees


MPs with fake degrees.

Also worth seeing our post on how to spot fake degrees.


What is a Statement of Comparability?


Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.

 

 

Since the introduction of the UK NARIC blog in November 2011, the most popular article we have written is ‘How a UK NARIC Statement of Comparability can help’ . Following on from the popularity of the article, here at UK NARIC we thought it a good idea to expand on the points made and further explain what a Statement of Comparability is, what is can do, how it can help; and perhaps equally importantly, what it is not and cannot do.

What is a Statement of Comparability?

Let’s start at the beginning – the purpose of the Statement of Comparability. The idea is that an individual from overseas comes (or is interested in coming) to the UK to study, gain employment or migrate. In order to do this, they need to prove to the admitting institution / potential employer / UK Border Agency* that they have a certain level of education or expertise. However, understanding the level of the qualifications the individual holds and what they can bring to the table is often the first stumbling block: here at UK NARIC, we can provide an assessment and compare the overseas award to a suitable and fair level within the UK national qualification framework. This will then allow the admitting institution / potential employer / UK Border Agency to understand, in more familiar terms, how the award compares to a UK level of education. The document we provide that contains this comparability, together with details of the awarding body, year of completion and title of award, is the Statement of Comparability.

Is UK NARIC’s decision final?

The comparability itself is merely our expert opinion derived from our considerable knowledge and experience which has been developed in close co-operation with universities in the UK as well as other NARICs and relevant authorities. It is not, as is often mistaken, a legally binding decision. A Statement provides details of the professional rights the qualification confers in the country of origin and forms the first stage in a two-stage process of professional recognition. Professional recognition in the UK is conducted by competent authorities such as the Teaching Agency and the Engineering Council.

Can UK NARIC provide a translation?

Usually, in order for UK NARIC to provide a Statement of Comparability, we request both the original language documents as well as certified translations. However, for certain languages, we can offer our Translation Waiver Service (TWS). The purpose of this service is to allow individuals to send solely the original language documents, thus removing the additional time and expense of certified translations. The full list of languages that are covered under the TWS can be found on the UK NARIC website. It is really important to clarify that the TWS is NOT a translation service – the idea is purely to save individuals time and money by allowing them to send their awards in the original language only.

Does the Statement of Comparability expire?

Another question we are regularly asked is whether the Statement of Comparability has an expiry date. The answer to this is no – it does not! However, as our information is reviewed on a rolling basis, it is possible that an assessment may change over time: new information or evidence may come to light that means we have to review a certain award or even an entire education system. The assessments provided are as accurate as possible, but are based on data available at the time of assessment only.

More information about a Statement of Comparability can be found on the UK NARIC website.

October 2012

 

 

*Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.


How to spot fraudulent education documents and fake degrees


The production of fraudulent documents, or fake degrees and diplomas, has been going on since antiquity, but it is only in the last ten to fifteen years that educational fraud or ‘fake qualifications’ have really become a worldwide problem.  There are two principal reasons for this: firstly, academic qualifications have gained increasing commercial value.

Educational achievement and the accompanying evidence are now used to attempt to ensure safe passage through immigration, promotion and access to employment, as well as a legitimate bargaining tool for better pay or greater professional recognition.  The cases of Gene Morrison and Stein Bagger demonstrates the lengths individual will go to in order to achieve such recognition.  It is, therefore, not surprising that educational fraud or fake qualifications have become a marketable commodity in their own right, irrespective of whether they have been earned or not.

Secondly, modern technology and the rise of the internet have undoubtedly contributed to the wide-spread trend of educational fraud and fake degrees.

There are a number of ways in which universities, college and employers can weed out these fake qualifications.  The first and most important thing to check is whether the institution is legitimate and not a diploma mill.  The easiest way to do this to check whether the education provider is listed on UK NARIC’s online database.

There are also a number of “red flags” to look out for when considering education documents:

Lack of official stamps / official seals

Degree certificates come with official seals or stamps.  These may be embossed, stamped or raised seals.

Paper quality

What is the paper quality of the certificate?  Are there any security features?

A variety of fonts used

The majority of degree certificates do not use more than three or four font styles.

Alignment

Degree certificates are generally aligned down the centre of the page.  ‘Cut and paste’ techniques on documents often make mistakes in the alignment.

Handwriting

If there is hand-writing on a certificate there should generally be no more than one style of handwriting.  Also, there should be no alternations or corrections on the document.

Scanned signatures

Scanned signatures have often been taken from websites or scanned from other documents.  The signatures will be pixelated. On genuine documents this will not be the case.

Informal or inaccurate language

The language used on degree transcripts is often very formal.  Read the text carefully and ensure that it makes sense and that the correct grammar has been used.

Awarding bodies

Can the institution in question award that given qualification?  Is the institution accredited?

These “red flags” are only a starting point.  It takes a lot of experience and research to be able to identify bogus or fake degree; the above are just some of the elements used to spot fake qualifications.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number members asking us to check whether certificates are genuine,” commented Ian Bassett, Commercial Director, UK NARIC / ECCTIS Ltd, “additionally our training courses and the Degree of Deception publication also help ensure that there are ways of combating this threat.”

Tim Buttress, August 2012

 

An updated article on education fraud has been published https://uknaric.org/2015/06/19/fraud-a-growing-problem-in-education-and-how-to-guard-against-it/.