Source: The Australian –

The higher education regulator will work with Chinese authorities to clamp down on fraudulent university degrees and diplomas following revelations several websites are offering forged qualifications from some of Australia’s most prestigious universities.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has written to all higher education providers to ensure they are aware of claims websites, including one known as Overseas Students Assistant HD, were ­providing certificates allegedly on the same paper stock as genuine qualifications.

Institutions would be asked to confirm there were “appropriate controls established to continue to protect the integrity of student records and maintain confidence in the authenticity of the qualifications awarded to students”, a TEQSA spokesman said.

TEQSA will also work with the Chinese Ministry of Education to seek its assistance in investigating these allegations.

On Monday revealed Overseas Students Assistant HD, operating on the popular Chinese-language WeChat platform, was offering qualifications from 42 universities and 53 TAFE colleges around the country for between $3500 and $5700.

For an additional charge, the service claims it can change the official Chinese qualification register run by the Education Department. Overseas Student Assistant HD has since removed its WeChat page.

Other similar websites, including one called GW Diploma8 and Documents Centre, also provide the same service, claiming the ­process takes between five and 10 working days.

“Over the years we’ve collected, literally, thousands of original diplomas (proofs) from which we create fake diplomas and matching transcripts,” the Documents Centre website reads.

“In order to give our documents an additional touch of ­authenticity, we … purchase our paper from the same vendor who supplies several universities with the same kind of paper they use for their documents.”

About 11 per cent of all qualifications authenticated by employment background verification service Verify, part of the listed Veda Group, were fraudulent.

Hosay Mangal, head of Verify, said she had noticed a significant increase in qualifications that had been falsified or were not com­pleted in the past five years.

“There’s a portion of falsified qualifications obtained from degree mills, where they are directly bought, and there’s that awkward situation where a candidate insists its authentic and the institutions don’t have it on ­record,” Ms Mangal said.

The largest number of falsified certificates were used to gain access to entry-level positions where graduate places were scarce. Ms Mangal said Verify had spent considerable time educating employers on the need for more robust verification processes.

An Australian National University spokesman said its degrees included several security elements, including holograms, to make the award documents more difficult to copy.

“ANU also encourages employers or people with concerns to check an applicant’s qualifications with the university,” he said.

“Since 2010, all graduates receive a digital copy of their award, their academic transcript and Australian Higher Education Graduate Statement, and these digital documents are held securely by ANU but can be made available for a third party to view, such as in a job application.”

Responding to suggestions made by Overseas Student Assistant HD that fraudulent vocational education certificates could be used to secure university entrance, a University of Sydney spokeswoman said any student found providing documents found to be fraudulent risks expulsion.

“The University of Sydney actively looks for any cases of fraud and forgery as part of our normal business processes and any ­evidence of wrongdoing is investigated thoroughly,” she said.

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