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Buying a bogus degree constitutes fraud. Source: Shutterstock

A diploma mill in Pakistan has been making millions of pounds from UK buyers looking for fake degrees, a report by BBC Radio 4  File on Four programme has found.

Buyers were willing to spend up to half a million pounds. They include National Health Service consultants, nurses and a large defence contractor.

More than 3,000 fake qualifications were sold to buyers in the UK in 2013 and 2014 by a company named Axact, documents seen by the BBC show. In 2015, the company sold more than 215,000 fake qualifications globally – worth a total GBP37.5 million (US$51 million).

“Degree fraud cheats both genuine learners and employers, so we’ve taken decisive action to crack down on those seeking to profit from it,” a Department for Education spokesman said.

There are hundreds of bogus online universities with names such as Brooklyn Park University and Nixon University. They are said to be operated by Axact, which is run by agents from a Karachi call centre. The company claims to be the “world’s largest IT company”.

Medical practitioners

Various NHS clinical staff were revealed to have bought bogus qualifications from Axact. The BBC notes there is no suggestion that the buyers did not hold appropriate original medical qualifications.

When told by the BBC that his “master of science in healthcare technology” was fake, a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, said it was an “utter surprise”.

In 2007, a consultant at a London teaching hospital bought a degree in internal medicine from a fake Belford University. The doctor, with a record for failure to report a criminal conviction, said he had not used the certificate because they “had not been authenticated”.

While doctors with valid medical degrees are allowed to practise, buying a bogus one constitutes fraud and they can be punished for that, Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) chief executive Jayne Rowley said. However, only 20 percent of UK employers thoroughly check their employees’ qualifications, according to Rowley.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said all NHS trusts operated thorough primary checks and verify them “through a variety of channels”. Any fraud would be reported to police, he said.

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