Time to put an end to the menace of fake degrees

Time to put an end to the menace of fake degrees
Time to put an end to the menace of fake degrees

In the age of instant communication and instant just about everything else, some people are finding bogus diplomas and degrees the way to go. Why would they want to spend seven or eight years after high school and thousands of dollars to get the certification in a speciality when buying such credentials off the internet is so much easier. If it charges one’s personal esteem to parade themselves off as MBAs or PhDs socially in front others, that’s one thing. But when it comes to the application of their easily gained expertise on the minds and bodies of others and more often than not motivated by personal gain, then a more sinister picture emerges.

And to cater to their demands, there are plenty of bogus degree peddlers online with fake certificates that could fool the most discerning of eyes. One such company, a software firm handing out bogus credentials, was Axact — run by a Pakistani who has since been convicted by the authorities in his home country.

At the time of the raid in Karachi, police seized hundreds of thousands of fake degrees as well as a collection of machinery and devices that were used in the allegedly fraudulent business. Neatly arranged diplomas from bogus institutions, along with student ID cards, overflowed the shelves in Axact offices.

Bogus degrees are not isolated to a country or region. They are a global problem. Saudi authorities busted more than a hundred illegal outfits selling forged degrees from non-Saudi universities. “The agencies were supplying these bogus degrees for the past several years,” said a government spokesman, adding that the recent finding was just the tip of the iceberg.

Fake college degrees can be a profitable business for those orchestrating them. With prices for a bogus university degree reaching anywhere between 3,000 (Dh2,938) and 90,000 Saudi riyal from a fictitious institution in the West, it can entice some unscrupulous individuals into investing in hi-tech scanners, printers and stamping machines and get down to work.

Bogus outfits simply create a website that looks like it belongs to a genuine university and would provide online payment options for customers as well as details for prospective employers who may contact them to verify whether a degree offered by it is genuine or not. Such bogus degree makers thrive primarily in eastern Europe, parts of Asia and in Israel.

The degrees supplied by these diploma mills are not genuine or approved by any official body. They are issued by institutions that may offer courses without stringent controls or approved standards. But more often than not they are issued once some payment is deposited in an overseas account without the need for courses or class attendance at all.

What encourages the drive to such bogus activity? Some are just too lazy and take the easy way out. Others don’t have the time or means for full-time study. It’s only the transfer of money and very little mental effort on the part of the recipient before he or she has a degree of choice, which is enough to influence an average human resources manager.

A decade ago, the US Justice Department had listed 10,000 individuals with false diplomas. Seventy on that list were Saudis working in senior positions of government, including a woman in the Ministry of Health who had forged her speciality in obstetrics and gynaecology. Personally, I recall two instances where bogus degree holders made a fool of those around them. In one instance, a personality no less than the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth herself, was fooled by a British fake degree holder who was bestowed the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) based on bogus credentials. In another, a Lebanese national who had advertised himself on social media as a top plastic surgeon with degrees from Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge failed to produce copies of his degrees when requested. His clients were primarily Gulf nationals, undoubtedly impressed with such lofty credentials. God knows how many victims he had duped.

“Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council should get rid of the obsession of employing only those who hold university degrees.””-Tariq A. Al Maeena

Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council should get rid of the obsession of employing only those who hold university degrees. Such compulsion often pushes prospective job-seekers to take the easier route of bogus certificates. There are plenty of non-degreed professions that can provide one with a decent living. The GCC nations ought to have a national cadre of capable and qualified employees rather than a bunch of unproductive degree holders.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena.

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