Graduate Prospects, the UK’s leading graduate careers expert, has been commissioned by the Department for Education to continue fighting degree fraud with a new emphasis on international co-operation. The news follows recently-released figures that show that 32 operators who were fraudulently representing themselves online as genuine UK universities and colleges have been shut down since Prospects Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) was appointed last year by the former Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to reduce the number of unaccredited institutions by increasing prosecutions.

The HEDD team is working to target bogus universities and perpetrators of degree fraud, as well as providing advice and guidance on the issue of fraudulent degree provision for the benefit of genuine HE institutions in the UK. It is also working to raise awareness among employers and students about the problems caused by degree fraud.

A recent government statement from Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, has announced the move as part of their clampdown on fraudulent institutions:

“We have taken further action by appointing Graduate Prospects to help us expose unscrupulous organisations and remove misleading websites wherever they make an appearance.”

Prospects have also announced that HEDD are working on international alliances in order to increase their reach and their capacity to prosecute fraudulent institutions that are currently out of their jurisdiction.

Roughly 80% of fake universities reported to HEDD are based outside of the UK and, as such, cannot be prosecuted.

Jayne Rowley, director for Prospects HEDD, does feel that advances have been made in this area and that more are to follow:

“We’ve made incredible progress over the last year, developing a shutdown process with law enforcement agencies and making alliances overseas, so we’re in a good place to make a bigger impact on offenders based outside our legal system.

“With the onset of the internet and distance learning degree fraud is a borderless crime and we must collaborate with agencies around the world to deal with it.”

Rowley has also cited the part her team have played in increasing checks and verifications in this area, saying that, “We also need to get people thinking more about prevention.” Amongst the measures taken are the development of free toolkits for education providers and employers that will “help them to develop policies on tackling degree fraud,” Rowley says.

Part of Prospects’ project has also been in raising awareness of degree fraud. Prospect says that degree verification through HEDD has increased 16% year-on-year with more than 116,000 checks and a total of 220 bogus institutions being officially identified since the service launched in 2011.

Amongst the collaborators on the Prospects HEDD fraud team are the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau as well as other law enforcement agencies. They are working together with the aim of forcing closure of operators who are violating the Education Reform Act.

The HEDD team have said that it is easy to check whether a university or college is an official degree awarding body by using the look-up service on hedd.ac.uk. Meanwhile, degree fraud can be reported to the HEDD fraud team on 08450771968.

HEDD, managed by Prospects, was launched in 2011 with funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It provides a degree verification service for job applications or entry into postgraduate courses and seeks to protect UK graduates, universities, and employers from degree fraud.