A recent report by NOW Grenada revealed that fake universities have been targeting Caribbean people.

Shane Mc Quilkin, the Quality Assurance Officer at Grenada National Accreditation Board (GNAB), told NOW Grenada “[Fake universities are] a huge threat because of the ease of access to computers... Education is now like selling a car or clothes, meaning anybody can do it and advertise. There is no rule to say that you can’t provide the service of education, but it is up to the consumer to decide.”

Fake universities or diploma mills are “usually an unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or no academic requirements.” –Merriam-Webster

Increased access to the internet makes distance and online learning more appealing to adult learners in the Caribbean. Job seekers can use their newly obtained educational credentials to request promotions and salary increases.

Online education and related services is a billion-dollar industry. In 2015, LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com, an online learning company, for $1.5 billion (Business Insider).

The selling point for some online degree programmes is flexibility, cheaper costs, and shorter study paths to getting a degree.

The ease in which a credible-looking website can be created combined with a growing demand for online education opportunities have motivated fraudsters to enter the higher education industry.

In many cases, diploma mills can be registered as legal businesses within the countries that they operate. However, this isn’t synonymous with quality education.

If you suspect that an educational institution is not to standard, report them to the Department of Education or the police.

How to spot a fake university

Here are a few signs that a “university” is offering worthless degrees.

Ownership and professors

Grenada National Accreditation Board (GNAB) says to beware of institutions that have not been under the same ownership and/or control for at least two years. Beware of institutions with constantly changing names or ownership. Consumers should review professor credentials and accomplishments.

Accreditation

Diploma mills often lack accreditation by a nationally recognised accrediting agency. Some scammers go as far as setting up fake accrediting associations. Verifying accreditations is as simple as contacting the Department of Education (SintMaartenGov.org), a nationally recognised accreditation board or even a trusted university.

In the Netherlands, NVAO (NVAO.net) assesses the internal quality assurance of universities and colleges and the quality of their programmes. This is done at both educational and institutional level.

Note: Some legitimate non-degree programmes do not require accreditation. Think of courses where you learn a specific skill.

Enrolment requirements and path to graduation

Illegitimate online institutions sometimes use shorter programmes (earn your degree in less time) as a selling point.

Shane Mc Quilkin, GNAB’s Quality Assurance Officer, cautioned that fake universities often lure perspective students by offering degrees based solely on life or work experience. There’s little to no enrolment prerequisites. “They will tell you that you have so much experience already then just write an exam and get your degree.”

Beware of institutions requiring very little to no prerequisites to enrol. Scammers are motivated by financial gain and accept anyone into their programme.

Extremely discounted prices

Some questionable institutions use aggressive sales tactics like steep discounts. “[Fake universities] pressure you by offering a scholarship, but you must pay by tomorrow – in other words, they give you no time to think or to assess or go to do the research. We jump at it sometimes without first paying attention to due diligence,” said Mc Quilkin.

Remember: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

NOW Grenada Video: https://youtu.be/Ij_S92J97n4