IIC University of Technology of Cambodia,
Case Study of Bogus Degrees in Sri Lanka
In April, 2019, universities around the world participated in the second annual “international day of action against contract cheating” sponsored by the “International Center for Academic Integrity.” The event reflected growing concern about an upsurge in educational fraud, which threatens to devalue higher education and undermine academic integrity, as well as harm students and institutional reputations alike.
Fraud and corruption in education exist in various forms beyond contract-cheating. Its global manifestations include diploma mills and the counterfeiting of academic documents, as well as bribery to ensure the licensing of academic institutions, the hiring of academic staff, the passing of examinations, admission into education programs and the award of degrees.
The problem is an urgent one. From an institutional perspective, the ramifications of failure to address fraud and corrupt practices are sometimes severe. The most prominent example may be the University of Wales, which was abolished in 2011 because it ran degree validation programs with dubious or downright illegal overseas partner institutions. Dickinson State University in North Dakota was placed on notice by its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission after it came out that the university had been graduating international students from to-up programs with Chinese and Russian partner institutions without authenticated documents or appropriate academic prerequisites.
Reputational damage is another risk of insufficient controls for vetting students’ qualifications. Western Kentucky University, for instance, was in 2016 forced to suspend almost half of its international graduate students recruited by an India-based agent – an episode documented by the New York Times. After admission offers were made, it turned out that the students did not meet admission standards and were academically unfit, despite remedial assistance. The institution accrued both real and opportunity costs, and loss of tuition revenues, and risked a deterioration of educational quality. Just as devastating was the impact on the students who were in danger of losing their visas and investments into education abroad.
For private companies and the government, the employment of individuals with bogus credentials can be a public relations fiasco. And yet, accounts of persons being employed in critical positions based on fake degrees surface regularly in the news, be it at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or the National Nuclear Security Administration.
What can academic institutions and others do to guard against fraud? At the most basic level, the solution involves robust processes for vetting student qualifications. But just as important is understanding the size and scope of the problem, its variations, and the hotspots where it occurs. Lasting solutions demand both vigilance and creativity on the part of admissions personnel, institutions, governments, and others.
The University Grants Commission of Sri Lanka has been notified of bogus activities of IIU University of Cambodia.