How to recognise a fake university

Discussion in 'General Information' started by Top Gun, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    A short guide on how to avoid the bad universities out there. Please note that this is a checklist and that a university showing one or some of the characteristics below isn't necessarily fake

    1. The name of the university is similar to that of a university in the UK or USA. The name also often contains the words ‘American’ and/or ‘International’. Read more here.
    2. The university claims accreditation from an unrecognized accrediting organisation, or downplays the importance of accreditation. Read more here.
    3. The university has an address in a province or a country with weak or insufficient legislation in the field of higher education, for example Hawaii, Louisiana and Wyoming in the USA, or smaller islands in the Caribbean or Pacific Ocean. Read more here.
    4. The university has one or several campuses in a province or a country with weak or insufficient legislation in the field of higher education, for example in Pakistan, Nigeria, or Somalia. Read more here.
    5. The university is registered as a company, for example in a British Overseas Territory or in an island country in the Caribbean. Read more here.
    6. The university is recognized by, and/or has a ‘campus’ in a fake or unrecognized country or micro-nation, such as the Hutt River Province in Australia or the Principato di Seborga in Italy. Read more here.
    7. The university often moves from one location to another; from Wyoming to Alabama, then from Alabama to California. Read more here.
    8. The university’s address is fake, misleading or that of a provider of virtual office solutions. Read more here.
    9. The university has no physical address at all and can only be contacted by email or fax. Read more here.
    10. Admission requirements are minimal. Read more here.
    11. The university emphasizes on its web page that it is not a diploma mill or a fake university. Read more here.
    12. Fees refer to the cost for certificates, transcripts, student identity cards etc, not to the cost for tuition. Read more here.
    13. It is possible to get a degree on the basis of ’life experience’ only. Read more here.
    14. Degree requirements are minimal and it is possible to get a degree within a very short time, in some cases just a few days. “No classes, no books, no course work, no hassle”. Read more here.
    15. There are links to samples of transcripts, diplomas, etc on the web site. Read more here.
    16. Logotypes of recognized credit card companies are visible on the university’s web-site. Read more here.
    17. The certificates can be antedated, making it possible to graduate several years ago. Read more here.
    18. The university web site is hosted on a server in another country and uses an unexpected internet top level domain. Read more here.
    19. The university’s degrees are advertised through spam and/or sponsored links on search engines. Read more here.

    Additional information here.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2009
  2. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The name of the university is similar...

    to that of a university in the UK or USA.

    There is a simple reason for this: Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Stanford are all well known and highly ranked universities. A university using a similar name can fool its customers into thinking that they are actually studying at Stanford, or which is more common, documents from fictious institutions like ‘Standeford University’ or ‘Camebridge University’ can be presented to potential employers as part of an application for a new job, or to universities in connection with applications for further studies or PhD positions.
    Words like ‘International’ and ‘American’ in the university name are popular and can be considered a warning sign although there are exceptions: the ‘International University of the North Americas’ is fake (well, sort of. I made the name up), whereas ‘American International University Bangladesh’ is not.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  3. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    university claims accreditation...

    from an unrecognized accrediting organisation, or downplays the importance of accreditation.

    Recognition or accreditation of universities is of importance as it is in many ways a quality control mechanism but the ways in which universities are recognised or accredited differ rather dramatically from each other: in some countries, like the USA, accreditation is a voluntarily process and in the hands of various non-governmental accrediting associations, in other countries, governmental bodies are responsible for the recognition of universities. Fake universities either downplay the importance of accreditation – ‘as an online, international university without a campus, we don’t need any accreditation’ – or acquire accreditation from unrecognised accreditation bodies with impressive names like "The Accrediting Agency for Online and Distance Education Universities, AAODEU”.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  4. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university has an address in a province...

    or a country with weak or insufficient legislation in the field of higher education.

    Fake universities have a habit of seeking out areas or countries where legislation in the field of higher education is weak or insufficient. At one point in time, the majority of universities operating in the state of Wyoming were unaccredited. In recent times, Alabama and California have seen a rise in the number of fake and/or unaccredited institutions but the situation is likely to change.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2009
  5. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university has one or several campuses...

    in a province or a country with weak or insufficient legislation in the field of higher education.

    War torn countries in Africa and/or countries with a high rate of corruption are popular locations for fake universities. The masterminds behind the Spokane-based St Regis University even managed to bribe a Liberian diplomat and set up a fake web site for the Liberian Ministry of Education in order to secure ‘recognition’ for the fake St Regis and James Monroe Universities. Other countries included Pakistan, Bangladesh and Panama. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the situation has improved recently.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  6. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university is registered as a company...

    for example in a British Overseas Territory or in an island country in the Caribbean.

    This is quite common, and allows the fake university to run its business from the UK, give courses exclusively in the US and enjoy the advantages of an offshore address. A company can be incorporated in the Turks and Caicos Islands within a few hours.
     
  7. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university is recognized by...

    ...and/or has a ‘campus’ in a fake or unrecognized country or micronation.

    This is an immediate warning sign. Interesting as they may be, micronations like Hutt River Province in Australia and Seborga in Italy are not places where you would expect to find dozens of universities.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  8. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university often moves...

    ...from one location to another

    Not too long ago some of the universities operating from or in Wyoming lacked regional accreditation but were able to offer educational programs as they were licensed by the state. The license is a permission to do business but not a recognition of the university and as the laws governing higher education tightened, many of the unaccredited universities packed up and headed for Alabama. Now many are leaving Alabama for California.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  9. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university’s address is fake...

    ...misleading or that of a provider of virtual office solutions.

    A fake university existing only on the Internet does not need a physical address; one reason for this is that it doesn’t want irate customers on its doorstep. An email address is quite sufficient and phone and fax numbers given on the web site may be shared so that the phone rings at a real estate firm or the fax is printed at a restaurant in Wallis and Futuna, a French territoire d’Outre-mer in the Pacific Ocean.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2009
  10. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university has no physical address...

    ...at all and can only be contacted by email or fax.

    Even recognised completely virtual universities will have a physical address. In general, a University without an address is to be considered suspicious until the opposite has been proven.
     
  11. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    Admission requirements are minimal.

    More often than not, a student is admitted to a fake university without having had to do much else than taking a simple test and/or pay a fee for admission. Many fake universities don’t have any formal admission requirements at all as these are considered unnecessary; there will be no courses or classes anyway.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2009
  12. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university emphasizes on its web page...

    ...that it is not a diploma mill or a fake university.

    If there is a need to emphasize this, something is probably very wrong.
     
  13. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    Fees refer to the cost for certificates...

    ...transcripts, student identity cards etc, not to the cost for tuition.

    In general, a fake university customer isn’t very interested in tuition and the fake university degree is a shortcut to promotion, a new job or postgraduate studies, although many people actually do think that what they are getting is genuine. It is possible to buy Associate, Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees from most fake universities and in many cases they are sold as ‘graduation packages’ that include two or more degrees plus transcripts. Some even offer lifetime verification services. The more degrees a customer buys, the bigger the discount.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  14. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    It is possible to get a degree...

    ...on the basis of ’life experience’ only.

    Many accredited universities in the US will give credit for life experience but not for all four years of a Bachelor Programme. This is what fake universities frequently do and the catch phrase is often ‘get a degree on the basis of what you already know!’ The more extreme cases include fake universities with online tests that will qualify the test taker for a degree even if he or she has deliberately answered every question the wrong way (thus, in a sense, getting a degree on the basis of what they didn't know.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2009
  15. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    Degree requirements are minimal...

    ...and it is possible to get a degree within a very short time, in some cases just a few days. “No classes, no books, no course work, no hassle”.

    In general, the only degree requirement that fake universities are interested in is payment. As soon as a customer has paid the required amount, the process of “awarding” the degree starts. The documents can be printed in Asia and then shipped from the Middle East to customers worldwide. The really fast ones will see to it that their customers have their degrees within 12 hours, provided of course that they have paid.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  16. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    There are links to samples of transcripts...

    ...diplomas, etc on the web site.

    Very few, if any, recognised universities in the world would link to sample diplomas as this would increase the risk of forgeries. Fake universities link to sample diplomas because it is a good online marketing trick; the customers can see and assess the product which is designed to look impressive.
     
  17. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    Logotypes of recognized credit card companies...

    ...are visible on the university’s web-site.

    If the university considers it important to highlight this, then it is very likely that it is a fake university. Recognised universities in most countries charge tuition fees, but they rarely give free advertising space to credit card companies.
     
  18. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The certificates can be antedated...

    ...making it possible to graduate several years ago.

    Many fake universities have a flexible attitude towards graduation dates. A student who feels that he or she has the ‘life experience’ needed to qualify for a fake university degree and that he or she did have the necessary life experience many years ago can sometimes choose to graduate way back in time. In some cases even before the university was actually founded.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2009
  19. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university web site is hosted...

    ...on a server in another country and uses an unexpected internet top level domain.

    Normally, a university web site resides on a server in the country where the university is located, and more often than not, the web site is hosted on a dedicated server. This is not the case with fake universities; web sites of several fake universities can live inside the same server and it is not uncommon for the server to host other fake web sites, such as those of fake banks and companies.
    In many countries, a university uses the country top level domain, as in .fi for Finland or some combination to show that it is a university, as in .ac.uk. In the USA, recognised universities (and some fake ones!) use the .edu top level domain.
    Many fake universities use the .com, .net or .biz top level domains or those of remote countries or territories like .ac for Ascension Island or .ws for Western Samoa but these are convenience domains only.
     
  20. Top Gun

    Top Gun Ninja

    The university’s degrees are advertised...

    ...through spam and/or sponsored links on search engines.

    Emails about “recognised degrees from prestigious, non-accredited institutions” (example here) are not to be taken seriously but is a quite common way for fake universities to sell their degrees. A Google search for ‘online degree’ or something similar will yield a very large number of hits, including sponsored ones. Quite often, the sponsored links will lead to fake universities.
     

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