scottish fake degrees
A degree from a Scottish university without leaving your home or studying... Source: Shutterstock.

The Scottish government is as good as powerless at preventing the online spread of fake degrees masquerading as legitimate qualifications allegedly offered by its institutions.

According to a government spokeswoman quoted by The Press and Journal, because “most of these websites are operated from abroad, the Scottish government has limited powers to intervene.”

However, she added, “we will always work with the UK government and others to do what we can to disrupt their activities.”

The degrees claiming to be from the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University (RGU), University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow, and University of Edinburgh can be purchased online for around £200 (US$267).

The fraudsters’ attention to detail is immaculate, with university emblems and gold seals featured on the certificates. The RGU certificates even feature forged signatures from Chancellor Sir Ian Wood and Principal Professor William Stevely.

“Forget about boring and exhausting courses, you can obtain a degree from the comfort of your home without studying, making projects and taking exams,” The Press and Journal reported one essay mill site boasts.

The forged qualifications go all the way from undergraduate level to doctorates and PhDs.

Aberdeen and Donside Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) Mark McDonald told The Press and Journal it is a “real concern” that people are able to buy “scam qualifications purporting to be from well-regarded universities such as RGU and Aberdeen University.”

With just 20 percent of UK employers running proper checks on applicants’ qualifications, according to Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) Chief Executive Jayne Rowley, there are serious concerns the degrees are not only being purchased, but being utilised in the UK job market.

HEDD allows employers to verify candidates’ qualifications and grades through checks of university records, however, many employers are choosing not to carry out these checks, running the risk of employing those with forged qualifications.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Ian Yuill told The Press and Journal that fake degrees “from major universities can cause real problems for employers, university graduates and the universities themselves.”

He claimed he has faith the universities are taking all action they can to prevent it and, while he acknowledges “policing the internet is very challenging” he hopes “the government is working with international agencies to track down and close down websites selling fake degrees.”

“The fact is people who buy fake degree certificates and diplomas from these websites are cheating themselves,” the spokeswoman for the Scottish government said.

“Anyone using them to their own advantage would be committing fraud, which carries penalties of up to an unlimited fine and life imprisonment.”

The Press and Journal reported one website alone sold over 3,000 of these fake qualifications from a number of different institutions in the UK in 2013 and 2014.

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