Fraud in higher education: a strategic issue
Faced with the development of “diploma mills”1 and the increasing circulation of false academic documents, the authentication of diplomas is becoming a major challenge for the Department of Qualification Recognition – ENIC-NARIC France Centre and for the ENIC-NARIC network. This work is vital to establish a culture of ethics, integrity and transparency in higher education.
Enhanced cooperation within the ENIC-NARIC network
As part of efforts to consolidate its expertise, ENIC-NARIC France is involved in several European projects that develop databases of authentic diploma templates, such as Q-Entry (secondary school diplomas), ScanD (higher education diplomas) and FraudS+. ENIC-NARIC centres benefit from the results of these various projects, which are valuable tools for preventing the circulation of fraudulent qualifications.
The purpose of the FraudS+ project carried out between 2019 and 2022 under the Erasmus+ programme was to improve the FraudSCAN database. This database gathers samples of fake qualifications and qualifications issued by diploma mills that have been provided by ENIC-NARIC centre project partners (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden). It allows assessors to compare dubious diplomas with confirmed fake ones, and to find out about “diploma mills”.
A section of the database is dedicated to explaining detected irregularities, making the platform not only a repository but also a learning tool, based on the sharing of expertise between peers.
Raising awareness among students and involving higher education institutions
By conducting a survey, the project also aimed to measure the knowledge level of students and potential applicants to educational institutions on the topic of fraud in education. The survey found that interviewees had poor knowledge of the subject and little direct experience with the issue.
ENIC-NARIC partners therefore have a key role to play in raising awareness and providing advice to students, but also in strengthening the commitment of higher education institutions to combat this issue. To this end, videos and information materials have been developed by the Italian ENIC-NARIC centre (CIMEA), the project sponsor for FraudS+, to raise awareness among students. These materials are available here.
The FraudS+ project has highlighted the importance of maintaining a culture of quality in education, which requires the involvement of other stakeholders (cultural, professional or community stakeholders) operating in the field of education and who are in contact with students. It also illustrated the vital role of digital tools throughout the student’s education. As a matter of fact, issuing secure digital diplomas or digitalising admission procedures are some of the key ways to prevent document fraud.
 Le terme renvoie à des organisations prétendant être des institutions d’enseignement supérieur et qui vendent leurs diplômes. Ce phénomène se distingue de la simple entreprise de contrefaçon, dans la mesure où l'institution existe réellement et produit des diplômes en son nom.