Investigators have shut down more than 80 fake university websites as part of a wider move to stamp out degree fraud.
Websites offering to supply fake academic qualifications and degrees to people, some of whom are looking for legitimate education, are increasingly common online.
While hundreds have been investigated, and 85 have been shut down, experts say there are many more still operating.
‘No links to the UK’
A number of sites, like Newcastle Business College and the European University of Business have been shut down by Jisc, the tech and IT agency for higher education.
The Government commissioned Jisc to investigate the issue of degree fraud in 2015. Since then, Prospects Hedd, the investigation arm of Jisc, has looked into more than 300 cases of universities offering fake UK degrees.
Despite its name Newcastle Business College was found to have no links to the UK, and offered fake degrees. Researchers found that it was actually run from the Middle East.
The European University of Business was operating from a fraudulently acquired “.ac.uk” web address.
Businesses are increasingly being encouraged to verify the educational qualifications of new employees, as the number of people involved in degree fraud has risen in recent years.
‘Swamped with fake providers’
Chris Rea from Prospects Hedd said: “Given the nature of these websites, which can close as quickly as they appear, there are many more fraudulent operators than our official figures tell us. In fact, it is very likely there are as many, if not more, than the UK institutions that are genuine.
“Our higher education system is deemed by many to be among the best in the world, but when the market is swamped with fake providers it puts that reputation at risk. The only way to stop these operators is to remove the demand.
“This means verifying the degrees of anyone who comes into your organisation. Be absolutely sure that they are who they say they are and that they have the qualifications to do the job or study they applied for.”