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The menace of fake degrees in our temples of learning

fake degreesThe menace of bogus degrees in our temples of learning.    Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Rather fail with honour than succeed by fraud. ~  Sophocles

Academic fraud is a serious problem. It’s inconceivable that some people who have never been to college are teaching in educational institutions using fake qualifications.

It is high time colleges and universities show some sense of responsibility when recruiting teaching staff. Appointing faculty with dubious credentials puts not only the students, but the future of the entire nation at stake. It amounts to allowing these bogus academics to play with the future of students.

The question is how are such appointments being made in the first place. How is it possible that fake faculty are able to fool institutions to believe that degrees are genuine? Isn’t verification mandatory as per rules before confirming the appointment?

Well, there can be only two plausible reasons- Either the employers in these institutions don’t bother to verify the credentials or it is plain corruption that is the root cause.

The employer is as guilty in appointing a candidate with fake credentials as the candidate faking it. Fake faculty not only bring in reputational damage to the institution but to the students of the institution as well. Students may be disadvantaged by the mere association with that institution. The educational institutions need to be more vigilant about such degrees and take serious measures to combat this menace to preserve the academic integrity of the institutions.

It is the duty of the educational institutions to conduct due diligence and vet every application and references and save the standard of education from further deterioration.

The educational sector is adulterated with spurious degrees. Every year we see several cases of faculty with fraudulent credentials being reported in the media. The problem is global which is not surprising. But while it is on the decline in several nations, it seems to be getting worse in India. This could be just the tip of the iceberg as we hear only of the cases being reported.

We need a standardized approach to check the qualifications of applicants in all educational institutions.

The National Academic Depository (NAD) is an initiative of the Indian Government that was created to provide an online storehouse of all academic awards. The NAD is a digital repository of all academic awards, viz. certificates, diplomas, degrees, mark-sheets, etc.  As on 23-08-2009, there are 755260 students and more than 1000 academic institutions registered. If all institutions including schools, colleges and universities are brought into this repository and mandatory verifications conducted, it can be an excellent source to check academic qualifications.

There is also an urgent need to form a Special task force in all states to check the qualifications of all teaching faculty currently employed in the country and put this loosely regulated segment in order.

The media also needs to play a greater role in exposing people and dubious organizations who offer, prepare and sell such fake and bogus degrees and diplomas.

Source: CBC News – CBC.ca

To expose the phony qualifications of some people and to reveal how easy it is to buy a fake degree, the Marketplace – CBC News in Canada conducted an investigation. Just this investigation alone revealed that more than 800 Canadians could have purchased a fake degree.

Why do people opt for fake degrees?

Possessing a fake degree is a big risk. A fake degree is like a ticking bomb. It could go off any time and once it does, with it goes your career and reputation. But then, why do some people risk having it? Well, it points to a more serious problem in the education sector. One of the fundamental problems is credentialism. Today, an inflated CV is considered a status symbol. With a high sounding degree, comes greater respect.

Part of the problem also lies in the demand. Every private or government institution insists on higher qualifications for hiring; thereby forcing people to acquire such fraudulent degrees and other meaningless qualifications. Too much attention and value are given to formal degrees than to actual skills and talent.

Another problem lies in the sub-standard education imparted by our schools, colleges, and universities. Every year new universities are announced, new colleges are set up, but the quality of education and pedagogical competence continues to be poor. The number of people graduating from college is used as a yardstick to measure the outcome of higher education. The real impact of poor quality teaching is seen in the quality of the graduating students.

A 2013 study of university graduates found that 47% of them are unemployable in any job, and in 2017 the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) noted that 60% of engineering graduates remain unemployed.

It is true that not everyone who fakes their qualifications does it to commit ‘fraud’. While some do it just to flaunt a fancy degree, others fake their degree to obtain a job or promotion.

This advertisement below shows how some dubious companies are brazenly luring people to buy fake degrees and diplomas online.  Another site www.buydiplomaonline.com openly offers fake diplomas certificates with a template of your choice for as low as USD 96 through its website. The Internet is flooded with such offers.

Fake diploma adverisement

Fake Diploma Advertisement  Source: https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/3eeZdRS3c1

Fake Universities

In the year 2015, the New York Times reported that there are 3,300 unrecognized universities worldwide and is a billion-dollar industry with more than 50,000 Ph.D.s purchased from diploma mills every year.

The University Grants Commission (India), for the past few years has been releasing a list of fake universities operating in the country. This year, it reported 23 fake Universities that are functional in the country. The UGC needs to do something more than just uploading the names of fake institutions annually. UGC apart from prohibiting these institutions from using the word ‘University’ hasn’t done much.

What we need is not a yearly notification on fake institutions but a robust solution like the Higher Education Degree Datacheck in the UK which acts as a repository of genuine and fake institutions in the country. During the last four years, the UK has shut down 75 bogus universities and built up a register of 243 fake universities. One can easily check if an institution is genuine or fake at the click of a button.

 

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Also read: Are you sure your child’s teacher is not a fake?

How Consent forms and Data Protection Laws come in the way of Academic Verifications.

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(The views expressed by the author in the article are his own)

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