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22 January, 2010 - 12:18 By Staff Reporter

East of England report finds UK is European capital for bogus universities

A new report jointly produced by a number of East of England organisations has identified the UK as Europe’s fake university capital.

The ‘Accredibase Report’ - produced by Bedford-based Verifile’s research team with the support of Cambridge University and the East of England Development Agency - reveals that 271 'degree mills' have already been identified in the UK, with many more still under investigation.The UK has nine times more of these bogus institutions than the second-placed European nation, the Netherlands, but falls some way behind the world capital, the US, where 810 have been identified.The report discusses how these bogus universities and colleges con students out of their money and supply fake degrees that deceive employers into offering jobs, sometimes with alarming or even fatal consequences. Eyal Ben Cohen, Verifile's managing director said: “We have so far identified 1,762 fake institutions worldwide, and we are still investigating a further 1,545 currently filed as ‘suspicious’ before publishing them on the ‘Accredibase’ database.”One case discussed in the report is the case of a Seattle ‘Doctor’, Brian O’Connell, whose degree in naturopathic medicine was not recognized by either the US Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The bogus doctor’s ‘care’ is reported to have hastened the death of a teenage cancer patient. Other examples include a fake doctorate holder who worked as a clinical director in a hospital as well as an eminent British forensic psychologist, Gene Morrison, who was convicted of raping three children. He was exposed as possessing a fake degree purchased in the US for $200. The con has become more sophisticated, according to the report's authors, with fake universities setting up fake accreditation bodies in an attempt to make their qualifications look genuine.  “For prospective employers”, said Eyal Ben Cohen, “asking to see original certificates will not tell whether an institution is genuine since these institutions not only provide their ‘student’ with official-looking certificates but also provide verification services where employers and background screening companies can call to ‘verify’ if the student has the degree they claim! “What is required is an accreditation check to see if the institution itself is genuine before even considering the validity of the certificate.”Verifile is based at the Bedford i-Lab and provides CV verification and background screening services.

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