Fake Degree Industry

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Need For Stringent Education Verification HR managers beware! As if the situation is not bad enough. What with trying to find the right employee to fill the position; the incessant demands and issues of employees – recruitment staffs have to worry about ‘genuinely’ fake degrees and certificates.

The explosive growth of educational institutions – legitimate and bogus – is fuelled by the huge demand of an aspirational India.  This has created a piquant situation.  India’s booming IT and knowledge economy desperately needs these graduates but their quality and calibre is appalling.  This is borne out by the Nasscom report, which stated that only 25% of the graduates from technical institutes and 10 to 15% from colleges are employable.

As a recruiter or employer there is a high probability that the applicant you are getting is of a decidedly unreliable nature.  To start with the UGC has a list of 21 fake universities, and then there are the hundreds of ‘colleges’ that are either teaching shops or diploma mills. A diploma mill is an institute that grants degrees and diplomas requiring no study.  They claim to be genuine education institutes.  However, they are neither recognised by official educational bodies nor are they affiliated to any university, though many state otherwise.

Many of them are nothing more than one room establishments in run-down buildings above chai shops.  They operate in the back lanes of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi and nearly every city in this country.  A ‘student’ or purchaser of their degrees can claim (to prospective employers) that they are degree holders.  How would a prospective employer know if a degree is genuine or false, when there are over a 1,000 universities in the country? Another fraud flashpoint is the foreign degree.

ASSOCHAM estimates that more than five lakh students go abroad, every year, to study and acquire degrees in engineering, medicine and management.  No one knows how many students are the clients of diploma mills. The current official list of overseas diploma mills numbers 69.  There are always more undiscovered than are known because there is no complete list.  The other trick that diplomas mills use is their names.  Very often they sound like famous or well known institutions.

One example is Columbia State University, Louisiana, USA, and then there is Stanton University.  To the untrained ear or eye they could easily be mistaken for the genuine and famous universities of Columbia in New York or Stanford. The glorious 20th Century phenomenon is the Internet.  It has leant itself to the spread of education – the distance learning experience.  And with the light comes the dark side.  The web sites offering phoney (but looking like the real thing) diploma and degrees are too numerous to count.  A study in the US alone, states that there are 300 such sites – and business is booming for them.  The industry is estimated to have raked in more than $500 million dollars in the last year. Fake degrees, forged certificates and mark transcripts, fake universities and colleges and diploma mills are sufficient to give any HR executive grey hair.

Sadly, a very low percentage of companies verify degrees and check educational qualifications.  Even then they could so very easily miss the depredations of the diploma mills. An individual with bogus qualifications could be hired for a sensitive position and cause irreparable damage and loss to the company.  They could very well be terrorists and pose a security risk. The responsibilities of an HR executive go beyond what they once were and what is written in their contracts.  It is not an easy life.

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