A SCOTTISH university has thanked the Sunday National after being alerted to a website selling fake degrees from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).

When the Sunday National contacted the seller, we were told for $600 we could have one ready in a week.

The site states: “UWS has a global academic reputation and ranks among the top 3% elite universities in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

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“At the same time, it is ranked among the top 150 in the world in the 2018 Times Higher Education World Modern University Rankings.”

A spokesperson for the university said: “We take this matter extremely seriously and we know other higher education institutions are facing the same issue. When we do become aware of fraudulent websites of this nature, we report them to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd) which is able to investigate them and take action to have the websites removed. We thank The National for bringing this particular website to our attention and we are now taking the relevant steps to report it.”

Chris Rea, head of higher education services at Prospects, which runs the Hedd degree verification and fraud service, said: “Under the Education Reform Act 1988, it is an offence for a body to award a UK degree or offer a UK degree course unless that body is recognised and officially listed.

“There are a multitude of websites offering novelty or replacement degree certificates for as little as a few pounds. These websites carry disclaimers about not using the documentation to make fraudulent misrepresentations to avoid prosecution. However they are breaching the copyright of the universities whose certificates they are imitating.

“As these sites are often registered outside the UK it can make it difficult to shut them down. The only way to ensure that you are recruiting genuine UK graduates is to verify degree certificates with the issuing university or through hedd.ac.uk. Digital or photocopied certificates are easy to change, so employers should always request the original.”

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According to the Hedd there is a growing number of instances of misrepresentation and forgery in the production and reporting of academic qualifications, but only around 20% of employers carry out proper checks on prospective employees.

Hedd and the Department for Education have identified more than 240 bogus providers. In every survey covering the subject around one-third of people admit to lying on their CV, with misrepresenting educational qualifications the most common lie. Degree fraud can come in several forms, all of which are illegal. This includes bogus universities and degree mills, fake certificate websites and fraud by false representation.

Hedd say: “This type of fraud is becoming more sophisticated, with websites and verification services often modelled on their authentic counterparts – including the direct lifting of content and sections of material from genuine university websites.

“Presenting this documentation as genuine in job applications constitutes fraud by misrepresentation and can lead to prosecution and prison sentences of up to 10 years.”