Source: NEWS.com.au – www.news.com.au
Forget $100,000 degrees — you can buy one outright for less than a tenth of that.
Police have been urged to investigate a sophisticated Chinese forgery business charging thousands of dollars for fake degrees and diplomas from nearly 100 of Australia’s leading institutions.
The business, whose name translates to “Overseas Students Assistant HD”, operates on Chinese-language social media popular with international students and advertises “all major universities qualification certificate”.
A Bachelor of Commerce from Macquarie University, a Bachelor of Business from the University of Sydney, a Master of Financial Analysis from UNSW and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Wollongong are among just some of the examples of forged degrees posted on its page.
Overseas Students Assistant HD offers qualifications from 42 universities and 53 TAFEs around the country. The degrees, which the business claims are sourced from the same parchment providers used by the universities, range from $3500 for “copy” quality to $5700 for an “original”.
For $6500, it claims to also be able to input the fraudulent student details into university databases, as well as the official qualification register system run by the Chinese government’s Education Department.
Each university contacted by news.com.au strongly defended the integrity and security of their parchment providers and their student records systems.
“If they’re charging $6000 it’s not cheap — it’s going to pass the common-man test — but that’s less than one semester’s tuition for these kids,” one graduate told news.com.au.
Overseas Students Assistant HD also claims to have forged diploma certificates to get students admitted into Australian universities, with an admission offer from the University of Sydney posted as a customer ‘testimonial’.
Some overseas students who chose to abandon their studies have allegedly bought forged medical certificates to get a 100 per cent refund of their tuition fees.
In a post dated 26 January, Overseas Students Assistant HD wrote: “Chinese New Year is almost here. How can you go home celebrating CNY without your degree? Contact us for a certificate now.”
On its profile page, it lists its professional services as: “Overseas education consulting, certified qualification certificate, medical certificate, solicitor’s certificate, employment, migration services.”
It is unclear how long the business has been operating locally, as its page has only been active on social media since September, and it does not have a website.
Other posts claim to show forged qualifications from a number of American universities, including the University of Southern California, the University of California, and Seattle University.
Professor John Simons, deputy vice-chancellor academic of Macquarie University, said he was “deeply concerned” by claims that an organisation is selling fake degrees. “They cheapen the significant accomplishment of our graduates and their years of hard academic study and learning,” he said.
“We hope that this matter is immediately brought to the attention of police, as it would appear to constitute fraud. Police are the only ones with the necessary resourcing and expertise to investigate sophisticated forgery businesses.”
Professor Simons said where the university had periodically in the past become aware that one of its degree testamurs had been faked, the matter had immediately been referred to the NSW Police.
“We will now conduct an internal review of our processes to ensure that the authenticity of our degrees is protected to the best of our ability, and if we identify any concerns will refer these to the proper authorities immediately,” he said.
UTS deputy vice-chancellor corporate services Anne Dwyer confirmed the university had been alerted to the matter last week and had commenced its own investigation.
“The University regards such matters very seriously,” she said. “If warranted, UTS will advise the relevant authorities and assist them in any investigations they might undertake.”
She stressed that UTS has no concerns with its parchment provider. “Like other universities, UTS has security features built into our parchment stock after it has been sourced from the provider. Our investigation will cover the entire process,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the University of Sydney said any evidence of wrongdoing would be investigated. “University parchment is treated with a high degree of security with detailed procedures for any staff with responsibilities in this area,” she said.
“The University actively looks for any cases of fraud and forgery as part of our normal business processes and any evidence of wrongdoing is investigated thoroughly. Any student providing a document which is later found to be fraudulent risks expulsion from the University.”
A spokeswoman for UNSW said the university had stepped up its fraud detection and deterrence activity, with a significant increase in conducting back to source checking as well as document certification.
“If forgeries are discovered they are reported to the police, ICAC and immigration and the students concerned are removed from the university,” she said.
“Our parchment provider has strict access controls and employee checks in place. The University’s testamur paper has a number of customised security features within each sheet which render them virtually impossible to replicate.”
Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said universities are very protective of their awards and qualifications and treat this sort of forgery threat very seriously. “If these allegations are correct, they are a matter for the authorities and of course, are to be condemned,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Police Fraud and Cybercrime Squad urged any institution or organisation that believes its brand or property has been illegally imitated to contact police.
In a statement, a spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said both the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and the Australian Skills Quality Authority were aware of the allegations.
“The Minister will be contacting both these agencies to see what action is underway. Any matter which undermines the reputation of Australian tertiary institutions is taken very seriously,” he said.
“The Government is committed to assuring the reputation of Australian higher education and vocational education and training for both domestic and international markets. More generally, forgery and related activities are criminal matters that must be investigated by relevant authorities.”
The full list of universities targeted:
- Adelaide University
- Australian Catholic University
- Australian Defence Force Academy
- Australian Maritime College
- Bond University
- Central Queensland University
- Charles Darwin University
- Charles Sturt University
- Curtin University of Technology
- Deakin University
- Edith Cowan University
- Flinders University
- Griffith University
- James Cook University
- La Trobe University
- Macquarie University
- Melbourne University Private
- Monash University
- Murdoch University
- Queensland University of Technology
- RMIT University
- Southern Cross University
- Swinburne University of Technology
- The Australian National University
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of New England
- The University of New South Wales
- The University of Newcastle
- The University of Notre Dame Australia
- The University of Queensland
- The University of Sydney
- The University of Western Australia
- University of Ballarat
- University of Canberra
- University of South Australia
- University of Southern Queensland
- University of Tasmania
- University of Technology Sydney
- University of the Sunshine Coast
- University of Western Sydney
- University of Wollongong
- Victoria University
The full list of TAFEs targeted:
New South Wales
- Hunter Institute of Technology
- Illawarra Institute of TAFE
- New England Institute of TAFE
- North Coast Institute of TAFE
- Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE
- Riverina Institute of TAFE
- South Western Sydney Institute of TAFE
- Sydney Institute of Technology
- Western Institute of TAFE
- Western Sydney Institute of TAFE
- Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE
- Brisbane North Institute of TAFE (including TAFE Open Learning)
- Central Queensland Institute of TAFE
- Gold Coast Institute of TAFE
- Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE
- Mount Isa Institute of TAFE
- SkillsTech Australia
- Southbank Institute of Technology
- Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE
- Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE
- The Bremer Institute of TAFE
- Tropical North Queensland Institute of TAFE
- Wide Bay Institute of TAFE
- Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE
- Box Hill Institute of TAFE
- Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE
- Chisholm Institute of TAFE
- East Gippsland Institute of TAFE
- Gordon Institute of TAFE
- Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE
- Holmesglen Institute of TAFE
- Kangan Batman Institute of TAFE
- Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE
- RMIT University (TAFE Division)
- South West Institute of TAFE
- Sunraysia Institute of TAFE
- Swinburne University of Technology (TAFE Division)
- University of Ballarat (TAFE Division)
- The University of Melbourne Institute of Land and Food Resources (TAFE Division)
- Victoria University (TAFE Division)
- William Angliss Institute of TAFE
- Wodonga Institute of TAFE
- Central West College of TAFE
- Challenger TAFE
- Curtin University of Technology
- CY O’Connor College of TAFE
- Great Southern TAFE
- Kimberley College of TAFE
- Pilbara TAFE
- South West Regional College of TAFE
- Swan TAFE
- TAFE International Western Australia
- West Coast College of TAFE