Fact Check by GhanaThink,

What is a Fake Degree?

Fake degrees are increasing.
What is a fake degree?

  • Somebody buys a degree.
  • An unrecognised institution gives a degree.

How do you recognise a fake degree?

  • The address of the company is a mistake.
  • The website doesn't end with 'ac', 'uk', or 'edu'.
  • They ask for money.
  • The letter or email has spelling mistakes.

National accreditation board, Ghana accredits institutions and programmes.
You can search for the institution on: "https://nab.gov.gh".
You can also ask the NAB to evaluate your international certificate.

With fake degrees seemingly on the rise, people need to be vigilant or they might find themselves having to explain to prospective employers why they’ve listed an unrecognised qualification on their CV. Here’s what you need to know about fake degrees.

What is a ‘fake degree’?

A fake degree is considered any degree not legitimately earned by the individual claiming the qualification. This includes degrees awarded by an unrecognised or unaccredited university or tertiary institution. Often fake degrees are bought with the full knowledge that the qualification has not been earned, but there are also institutions masquerading as real universities who offer seemingly real degrees to unsuspecting individuals. Perhaps the qualification requires you to complete a questionnaire, activity or seminar to ‘earn’ the qualification.

The most recent trend comes from unaccredited international tertiary institutions who confer honorary degrees on prominent members of the state, celebrities and business moguls. This is a particularly popular practice in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia. This practice has grown in popularity because honorary degrees are by nature easier to sell as legitimate. This is because an honorary degree is conferred on an individual who has demonstrated a skill or contribution to a field and so is deemed worthy of recognition without completing any coursework or examinations, so all the institution needs to do is appeal to the individual’s ego to convince them that they’re worthy of an honorary degree. The institution can claim that they are not guilty of any wrongdoing, because the degree awarded is only “for the sake of honour”.

The other benefit of conferring honorary degrees is that these are often given to people in the public eye, and in so doing, this can legitimise the institution’s operation with the people in that country. The name of the institution becomes recognisable and more people seek out the university or tertiary institute and sign up for their offerings.

Recognising a fake honorary degree

So, how can a prominent business leader, politician or local celebrity be sure that the degree they are being awarded is legitimate? Well, there are some easy ways to check this:

  • Research the institution offering the award. Check the address listed on their website – often, the address used is an address for another institution or is completely unlinked to the organisation. Any real tertiary institute will have an address recognised and listed with the institution’s name when doing a quick Google search.
  • Check their web address. Recognised UK institutions’ websites will always end in ‘.ac.uk’ and recognised US addresses end in ‘.edu’. Any variation of this is a clear indication that this is not a legitimate institution.
  • Are they asking for a significant amount of money in exchange for an honorary degree? Common sense should tell you that paying money for administration fees or conference attendance in order to receive an honorary degree means that you are essentially being asked to buy the degree and this is probably a scam.
  • Do they make a lot of spelling errors or use strange phrasing? If you’re not a first language speaker and aren’t sure, ask someone you know to double check. This is a sure sign that the institution you’re dealing with is not legitimate. Any authentic academic institution who sends you documentation will ensure that it has been properly drafted and proofread.
  • What is Ghana’s NAB?

    The National Accreditation Board was established in 1993 by the Ghanaian government as part of their efforts to reform tertiary education in Ghana.The NAB’s responsibility is to mandate and monitor standards for public and private tertiary institutions in Ghana. The only recognised qualifications in Ghana come from organisations that have been vetted and accredited by the NAB. If an institution is less than 10 years old, they must be affiliated with an accredited tertiary institution so that they can ensure proper mentorship. External institutions awarding degrees or certificates in Ghana are also required to be accredited by the NAB and should be affiliated with an accredited institution or examination body.

    In addition to accrediting institutions, programmes must be evaluated by the NAB to ensure that the curriculum, teaching staff and required materials are acceptable and available. The NAB is the only body able to set the standard for what qualifies as a degree, diploma or other type of certificate. Qualified individuals in the relevant field are hired as assessors and will evaluate the programme’s admission policy, examinations, course material, teaching staff and practices, facilities and methods of assessment to ensure these meet the standard required for accreditation.

    Who runs the National Accreditation Board?

    The NAB’s board consists of 25 members headed by a government-appointed chairperson. The board has representatives from the government, public and private universities, polytechnics, the Regional Colleges of Applied Arts, Science and Technology (RECAAST), Association of Ghana Industries, Association of Recognised Professional Bodies, West Africa Examinations Council, National Board for Professional and Technician Examinations, Public Services Commission, Nurses and Midwives Council and Higher Education Division of the Ministry of Education.

    How can you check an institution’s status with the NAB?

    If an individual is unsure of the standing of an institution offering them a qualification, they should request to see the letter issued by the NAB to the institution which states the organisation’s level of accreditation, including what qualifications they have been approved to award. The NAB also has a website which lists all recognised tertiary institutions, as well as listing specific institutions that are unaccredited. There is even a list dedicated to “unaccredited institutions conferring unrecognised Doctorate Degrees.” If the institution is not listed as an accredited institution on the NAB’s site, the qualification should not be accepted and it is recommended that no money should be paid to the institution.

    The NAB also offers an evaluation service of international accreditations. This allows individuals, companies and tertiary institutions the ability to match the standard of an international qualification with the level within the Ghanaian educational system. This provides peace of mind to companies hiring employees with international qualifications and allows individuals to prove their level of qualification to any prospective local tertiary institution or prospective employer.

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