STUDENTS say businesses offering fake degrees and verifications that would pass under the nose of the Chinese government could cost graduates their jobs and devalue their genuine qualifications back home. Echo Chen reports.
International students have spoken out against degree forgery businesses targeting Chinese students in Australia, with some fearing their genuine qualifications would be devalued as a result.
On March 30, news.com.au uncovered a forgery business on a Chinese-language social media site selling fake qualifications from about 100 Australian universities and TAFEs.
Since then, Meld has found at least three other similar businesses selling fake qualifications and academic transcripts from institutions in Australia and around the world through Chinese social media sites as well as Facebook.
These businesses are using personal accounts on social media and instant-message apps as shop fronts to offer their services. After adding the account holder as a friend, one can order a fake qualification via online personal messages.
In particular, the businesses offer fake verification services targeted at Chinese international students, as graduates returning home are required to have their qualifications legally verified by the Ministry of Education in China.
These accounts explain on their pages that their services are for students who need official verification of their degrees, and who fail to obtain a degree overseas but still want to come back home with a “valid” qualification.
One business, Bolang Study Abroad has multiple accounts across Twitter, Chinese-language social network Weibo, WeChat and the messaging app Tecent QQ.
Its profile description on QQ, translated from Chinese, reads “professional agent for graduate documents, certified by Ministry of Education and the embassy, can be checked online”.
The account holder said a degree certificate from the University of Melbourne would cost 5,000 CNY (approximately AUD 1,000), and a staggering 60,000 CNY (approximately AUD 13,000) if combined with an “official verification”.
“(As long as) the verification is done, the degree can get away with any checking. (It will be) no problem when you seek jobs or apply for civil service examination with that,” the account holder said in Chinese in a QQ instant message.
When asked whether the fake degree could go undetected in Australia, the person replied, “that’s no problem”.
Stella Feng, a Chinese student undertaking a Master’s degree at RMIT University, said businesses offering fake degrees and verification services could tarnish the reputation of the international education sector.
“People may think all overseas students get their degrees through illegal means or effortlessly, which is not the fact,” Ms Feng said.
It also puts students with real qualifications in an unfair situation, as they will be forced to compete with those holding fake degrees in the job market, she said.
Other students Meld spoke to said that while degree forgery was concerning, they believed those who bought fraudulent degrees do not possess the capabilities required in the workplace and will ultimately fail in their career.
“What I have learnt and experienced through my university are much (more) valuable than a piece of certificate,” said University of Melbourne student Daisy Wu.
“They can never fake their ability when it comes to real work,” she said.