Tag Archives: undergraduate degrees

Diploma Mills: A Serious Problem and They’re Not Going Away

January 26th, 2018

Diploma Mills

Diploma mills and misrepresentation of academic documents continues to be a growing problem in countries around the world.  The BBC 4 recently reported on the serious problem of diploma mills and the large number of fake degrees purchased by UK citizens employed by the National Health Service and defense contracting industry. The UK Department for Education has vowed it is taking “decisive action to crack down on degree fraud” that “cheats genuine learners”. For more on the BBC 4 news report, click here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42579634 and for an audio recording, click here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09ly731

Here at ACEI, we realize the importance of doing our due diligence in vetting and verifying academic documents and ensuring that they are in fact issued by legitimate educational institutions to individuals who have duly earned them through actual attendance and participation in classes and coursework validated by final examinations.

From time to time, we share tips we’ve gleaned from our years of experience with academic documents and in this week’s blog we’d like to do exactly that and repost a comprehensive to-do list for you. We welcome any tips you would like to add to this list.

Ensuring the authenticity of educational credentials is by far the single most important step in credential evaluation and international student admissions. Without due diligence in fraud detection, we may run the risk of evaluating documents that may have been falsified, or fraudulently procured and admitting the students into our institutions based on unauthentic credentials. As professionals involved in international credential evaluation and admissions, we must remain vigilant and adopt best practices that protect us and the community from fraud.

In this blog post, we offer some tips we had previously posted in January 2017, for you to consider when evaluating international academic credentials. In helping you detect a diploma from a mill, as well as falsified and altered documents.

What is an authentic academic credential?

The definition adopted by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers is as follows:

An official transcript is one that has been received directly from the issuing institution. It must bear the college seal, date, and an appropriate signature. Transcripts received that do not meet these requirements should not be considered official and should be routinely verified for validity and accuracy before proceeding with the evaluation and admissions consideration.

The 5 Most Common Types of Non-Official and Illegitimate Documents:

  1. Forged or altered documents – Official, legitimate document that have been altered in some way (usually by omissions, addition, or changes)
  2. Inside jobs – these are special cases because the documents are actually produced by institutional employees, usually for a fee; inside jobs are virtually impossible to detect upon initial review.
  3. Fabricated (counterfeit) documents – documents fabricated to represent official documents from real or non-existent institutions (including use of letterheads)
  4. Degree or Diploma Mill Products – The products of degree/diploma mills are not in themselves fabrications but the academic study they purport to represent certainly is.
  5. Creative translations – “Translations” of foreign-language documents that are not just inaccurate but systematically misleading, tantamount to fabrication.

Watch for the Red Flags!

flag

Checklist of Clues:

  • The application is unusually late, assuming that it would impede verification, or is accompanied by a long letter from an impressive office – usually located in the U.S. – which may be attempting to lend an aura of officialdom to otherwise unacceptable documents. Do not be pressured or rushed into completing the evaluation or reaching an admissions decision;
  • Discrepancies/inconsistencies noted in the application for evaluation;
  • Evidence of corrected personal data (birth date, gender);
  • Document is tampered and has evidence of white-out, burn-marks, erasures, corrections;
  • Credentials do not display misspelling, wrong course titles for the time period, smudges, white-outs, or erasures;
  • Fonts, text layout, and symmetry of documents are correct for that institution’s credentials.
  • Interrupted/obliterated lines where information is generally typed or printed;
  • Missing pictures on diplomas or professional identification cards;
  • Partial seals on the surface of superimposed pictures not on the document surface;
  • Institutional logos are clean and correct for the time period.
  • Signatures of institutional authorities do not look forced, unsteadied, nor copied and pasted.
  • The type is inconsistent throughout the document because subjects have been added or grades changed. In some cases, crude alterations have been made in longhand, or lines may have been typed in at a slight angle to the computer generated originals;
  • Irregular spacing between words or letters, or insufficient space for the text;
  • Questionable paper quality, texture, size (regular or legal), weight coloration;
  • Ink color and quality;
  • Inappropriate or outdated signatures;
  • Incorrect seals/emblems, colors, shapes;
  • Excessive seals and stamps attempting to help the document appear official;
  • Does the document security features, such a embossed seals, foil printing, raised text, or holograms that should be the official document of that country?
  • Applicant claims to have lost the original documents;
  • Applicant claims to have graduated from an institution but can provide only a letter indicating completion of program;
  • Although the applicant had taken external examinations, the certificates have been lost and all he/she has left is a statement of attendance or graduation from the school;
  • You know the education system to be different from US system, yet the transcript appears to be very American, giving, subjects, grades and credit hours in US terms;
  • Grade certificates prepared in a language other than the official language of the country where the document originated. Many countries are currently using official transcripts in English: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Canada (except Quebec), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and India.
  • Names may have been substituted. Typically, a person will type his/her name on a sheet of paper, cut it out and paste it across a copy of an original, which he/she then photocopies; the substitution of names will rarely appear on an original;
  • Grades listed may be absurdly high, or the number of course hours claimed to have been carried per semester an improbably load;
  • Numerical aberrations: credits do not add up and the overall grade point averages are a mathematical impossibility;
  • Is the educational terminology correct for the country concerned?
  • Use of unprofessional language on academic documents, poor grammar, misspellings;
  • Are there any dates or signatures on the documents?

Our advancement in technology is both a blessing and a curse. With sophisticated computers and printers at their disposal, counterfeiters today produce flawlessly perfect documents that for the uninitiated make it difficult to detect fraud. We hope that the tips shared in this blog and your institution’s enforcement to have in place strict standards for the submission and receipt of academic documents help thwart it and eliminate fraud.

Who ever said international credential evaluation is dull doesn’t know and appreciate what we do. Stay vigilant and happy sleuthing!

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

1 Comment

Filed under Credentials, Education

Classification of College Courses: Demystifying Course #s and Levels

October 24th, 2013

college

We regularly get asked by our international student applicants what is meant by “lower division” and “upper division.”

In the U.S., undergraduate degrees such as the Associate and Bachelor comprise of a select number of courses with a specific number of credits. In order to qualify for the award of these degrees, students must complete a required number of courses at what is considered to be lower level and or lower and upper levels. Graduate degrees also have a specific number of required courses with corresponding course numbers.

We have prepared the following description and hope you’ll find it helpful!

    Lower-Division Courses

Lower-division courses, typically numbered from 100 to 299, are designed primarily for freshmen and sophomores. Certain classes are closed to freshmen who lack the designated prerequisites or whose majors are outside the units offering the courses.

    Upper-Division Courses

Upper-division courses, are typically numbered from 300 to 499, and designed primarily for juniors and seniors. Prerequisites and other restrictions should be noted before registration. Courses at the 400 level apply to graduate degree requirements for some graduate programs. Always check with the Graduate office at the U.S. institution for information. Generally, upper-division level build upon material taught at the lower-division level in introductory or survey courses. For example, English 101 – Freshman English is a lower level course at the introductory level. Some courses labeled “Introduction to…” can be upper level courses depending upon the university reviewing the course. On a 100-400 numbering system, for example a course titled “Politics 512 – Introduction to International Law” may be offered for both undergraduate and graduate credit. It’s clearly “upper level” even though it says “Introduction” in the title. Upper division courses are courses offered at the junior level or higher.  By definition any course taken at a community college is not upper division.  Lower division courses are any course taken at a junior college or community college or courses offered at the freshman and sophomore level at a four-year college or university regardless of the title or content of the course.

    Graduate-Level Courses

Graduate-level courses, are typically numbered from 500 to 799, and designed primarily for graduate students. However, an upper-division undergraduate student may enroll in courses numbered 500-599 with the approval of the student’s advisor, course instructor, department chair and dean of the college in which a course is offered. If such a course does not meet an undergraduate graduation requirement, it may be eligible for use in a future graduate program on the same basis as work taken by a non-degree graduate student.

Alan

Alan A. Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO, ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

2 Comments

Filed under Credentials, Education