Fraudulent degrees and qualifications: the problem and potential remedies
Chair: Martin Gill
Keith Rosser – Director of Reed Screening, Reed
Gavin Burton – Consultant, Qualification Check
Gavin Burton notes that awareness about how and where to verify degrees (and other qualifications) is thin although for the informed it can be done. Fraudsters work in this area internationally although rates for this type of crime vary markedly, as do the quality of responses, including the balance between technology and human intervention. Each country operating different systems, checking whether people really obtained the qualification they are referencing, paid for them, did them at the time they suggested, from the institution/awarding body they are claiming are amongst things that are difficult to check, which can take over 3 days in each case. There is one big opportunity on the horizon as the world of digital identity evolves and with it digital credentials. The technology is evolving but it is expensive, still in its infancy and operates in the context of different trust frameworks which limits the international application. It has to be secure of course and that is always a challenge. There are serious dangers though in not getting this right, you will witness Gavin explaining how a paedophile used fake qualifications to commit horrendous offences. That then opens up liability issues for the authority that makes the error.
Keith Rosser reports research which finds a third of job seekers lie somewhere on their application form, often about their qualifications and cites CIFAS as a source indicating this is on the rise. Moreover, less than two thirds of prospective employers check the veracity of applications and the quality of those checks varies. The matter is important, there needs to be fair competition for jobs, employers and clients and the public need reassurances. Some don’t know how to check, some are resistant to paying for checks. For some it is in the too difficult box because authenticating some accreditations can be tricky (not least with low level paper qualifications); after all checking with accreditation bodies or former employers who no longer operate can be time consuming and therefore expensive. There is an initiative in the UK to bring the relevant parties together and that is what is needed, a coordinated response, and the French government is sponsoring checks. Keith notes that digital identities offer real possibilities to employers, but the data needs to be protected albeit most current employers consider them safer than the alternatives. AI may also help with the selection of job candidates and validating credentials but always needs human involvement, blockchain may offer possibilities too.
This issue often operates under the radar yet is has massive implications. The panel have highlighted the dangers of not getting it right and the opportunities for rectifying current loopholes. Whether sufficient stakeholders will take interest and coordinate meaningfully, as is needed, remains an open question. We need to watch this space carefully.
3rd February 2022