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Diploma mills
October 14, 2003 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder how people buy those fake PhDs? It turns out a number of real people, including psychologists, criminologists, and university faculty are using diploma mill degrees to earn positions. Absolutely fascinating.
posted by MikeB (36 comments total)

 
Awesome presentation. These guys are pretty easy to track which surprises me that they're not busted more often.

I did some of my own sluething a while back when the subject came up and found the Glencullen university at the PO Box spot in the UK, as well as several people online claiming to be graduates of these fake universities.
posted by mathowie at 9:49 AM on October 14, 2003


Some quick googling turned up someone at what appears to be a legitimate health science research institution with masters and phd degrees from a university that doesn't exist.
posted by mathowie at 10:16 AM on October 14, 2003


Please warn before linking to a pdf. These things take forever to load. I don't understand why anyone would do something in pdf when they could do it in html.

Also, do any of these universities offer an mba? I could use one of those.
posted by nyxxxx at 10:24 AM on October 14, 2003


Here's a phys. ed. teacher at a catholic school in Kansas from the presigious Ashford University.
posted by MikeB at 10:39 AM on October 14, 2003


These degrees, where can they be purchased, and for how much?
posted by troutfishing at 10:42 AM on October 14, 2003


And this city manager of Monte Vista, CO.
posted by MikeB at 10:51 AM on October 14, 2003


[this is a big download, but good]
posted by milnak at 10:51 AM on October 14, 2003


troutfishing: look at the last page of the pdf..

As a Masters student who has given up her social life to be in class for sometimes 9h a day and to study the rest of the time .. I'm pretty damn disgusted.
posted by ruelle at 10:56 AM on October 14, 2003


Keep 'em coming, if you find any in England I'd be happy to grass on the scum.
posted by biffa at 10:57 AM on October 14, 2003


OT
Please warn before linking to a pdf. These things take forever to load. - nyxxxx

I agree, it's just plain good manners to indicate a pdf/flash, etc, link, but you can do something to speed up PDFs loading [well, the reader software, anyway.] Follow the instructions here.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:59 AM on October 14, 2003


So these degrees, they vibrate?

And I'll add my vote to the no PDFs thing.
posted by Outlawyr at 11:00 AM on October 14, 2003


Wow. this is absolutely fascinating.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:02 AM on October 14, 2003


Slide 106 was my favorite.
posted by gd779 at 11:02 AM on October 14, 2003


i also find this fascinating. college degrees have become an odd fixture in our society. for those willing enough to stick it out for 4+ years in college, outrageous student loans, good/bad teachers and sometimes a bizarre curriculum (why an electrical engineer needs to take biology is beyond me, physics and chemistry are more useful). most of us are mildly shocked after graduation to discover we really don't have any interest in pursuing our degree-related profession once we get into the real world.

my first scary thoughts about fake PhD's consisted of someone lying about their experience and education to get ahead in a "mission critical" job position. what happens when backyard mechanics start designing airplanes, elevators and medical equipment. don't get me wrong about education and experience, some of the most intelligent and thought-provoking people i have met never made it out of high school. and as far as i know, none of them have fake PhD's.
posted by lsd4all at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2003


Last year, Michigan Law School denied me transfer credit for work done at Keller Graduate School of DeVry University, just because some of the work was done online. DeVry is accredited in exactly the same way as Michigan, and in many ways provided me with a superior quality of education. This bias against non-traditional education stinks, and it is caused in part because of these "life experience" diplomas.

On the other hand, in the normal course of things I doubt that "life experience" diplomas are really that harmful. I'd bet that most of the people who buy these things aren't doctors or clinical psychologists, they're businesspeople trying to get a job in sales or business operations. Are you really going to be able to perform your job better for having sat in that two credit sociology class?
posted by gd779 at 11:17 AM on October 14, 2003


Equally weird -- I had a client who I began researching after he got more than a little strange on me. It turns out that most -- or perhaps even all -- of his degrees were impossible to verify. He also claims to have won several prestigious awards from the vatican.

So, let me ask this of you researchers -- when does "impossible to verify" finally equal "this person is lying?" With known degree mills, it's fairly straightforward... but what about with some of the lesser ones? It's not like I ever found a smoking gun, so to speak.

Is there a comprehensive list of degree mills out there?
posted by ph00dz at 12:03 PM on October 14, 2003


On the other hand, in the normal course of things I doubt that "life experience" diplomas are really that harmful.

I disagree. Lying and deceit are not acceptable traits for an employee and any respectable job. This is especially true of positions which would normally require an advanced degree. Even when the educational level is a secondary consideration there is an implied commitment in working to obtain the goal of the degree inherent in the process.
posted by cmdnc0 at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2003


Are you really going to be able to perform your job better for having sat in that two credit sociology class?

I'd argue "yes". Not because of the content of the class, but because you take your career seriously enough to invest more than a few bucks in it.
posted by mkultra at 12:05 PM on October 14, 2003


ph00dz- If you have an HR department, let them know and let them deal with it. That's their job. If you don't have an HR department, I wouldn't be shy about asking for a copy of the diploma if you can't verify the institution. Suspicious claims of awards are generally easily vetted by asking about the specifics of their submission.
posted by mkultra at 12:10 PM on October 14, 2003


It is truly sad that so many people would pay someone money for a piece of paper to deceive themselves and others.

When will they realize that the true value of an education lies not in the diploma but in the rewards that cannot be seen or touched but enrich one's life on a daily basis.

ruelle:

As a Masters student who has given up her social life to be in class for sometimes 9h a day and to study the rest of the time .. I'm pretty damn disgusted.

If I may be so bold, you are not giving up your social life, you are investing in a better social life years down the line. Think of the social life you will have and the way you will be able to enrich the lives of family and friends with your increased knowledge and confidence. Please pity the fools who buy their diplomas and keep up the good work earning yours.

Hope everything works out for you!
posted by cup at 12:45 PM on October 14, 2003


I wonder if Parkwood has any good athletic teams. I'm sure they could sell themselves a national title or two.
posted by Bag Man at 12:53 PM on October 14, 2003


When will they realize that the true value of an education lies not in the diploma but in the rewards that cannot be seen or touched but enrich one's life on a daily basis.

I don't know about you, but I went to college to see and touch hot chicks.
posted by Stan Chin at 12:56 PM on October 14, 2003


If you look at the security settings, you will see that the document is not protected in any way.

If one were so inclined, one could easily remove certain elements from:

-Slide #54 (PDF page #52)
-Slide #93 (PDF page #91)
-any other slide with red blocks that can be clicked on and deleted to reveal faces, phone numbers and other details.

Note: This worked with Adobe Acrobat 5.0 but I don't know if it will work with Adobe Reader.

I am no fan of the PDF format but this particular document is delicious.

MikeB: Excellent FPP!
MikeB, Matt and Blue Stone: Great links!

Thank you.
posted by cup at 1:04 PM on October 14, 2003


Excellent post. Thanks.
posted by gleuschk at 2:14 PM on October 14, 2003


This was an amazing read. Thanks for the post!
posted by cyniczny at 6:47 PM on October 14, 2003


The Google ads on this page are quite relevant.
posted by trharlan at 7:32 PM on October 14, 2003


*downloads pdf editor*

Thanks for the tip, cup. Ooooo, information!
posted by punishinglemur at 7:41 PM on October 14, 2003


About the red boxes: If your computer is slow enough (or you're running enough simultaneous applications) the red boxes should take longer to render than the photos and such, and you'll have a split second to see the faces... though probably not long enough to read much text. Click back and forth, repeatedly reloading the slide, and you'll have no problem seeing faces without an editor.
posted by rxrfrx at 9:44 PM on October 14, 2003


Truly excellent post, MikeB - pdf or not.

It's not only a fascinating expose of this scam but a reminder of what a powerful research tool the web can be in ferreting out scams and fraud. Unfortunately, the flip side of the coin is that the web is also a huge black hole for naive and undiscriminating people. I am always amazed at how many otherwise intelligent people have little to no savvy about vetting information they find on the web.

This is just the kind of thing the oft-discussed mojo project would do well. It's interesting the way he collaborates and shares information with other experts in the field.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:01 PM on October 14, 2003


'fake' diploma, 'real' diploma... it's all the same to me
posted by timb at 4:04 AM on October 15, 2003


I like to claim I have a doctorate of divinity from the Universal Life Church. But I really don't.
posted by jfuller at 6:37 AM on October 15, 2003


Not sure why anyone would pay good money for these. If any doubts ever came up with an employer, etc., they do a quick google search and the jig is up. ("It's a bad jig! A terrible jig!") If you're going to put across a fake credential, invent it out of whole cloth, using an easily misspelled name (University of Rosstenfjoord, Swinehoppe State) so that the empty google results are chalked up to a bad URL.

Any deeper inquiries than that and the whole the thing will come crashing down, regardless of whether you paid for the diploma or photoshopped it yourself.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:59 AM on October 15, 2003


stupidsexyFlanders: Some of the fake universities do exactly what you suggest. Durham uni is real, old and quite prestigious, (especially if you're called Tarquin), Dunham is the fake. Staffordshire uni is real, Stafford is the fake (though they have very similar web addresses). There is a Southampton uni, but not an Westhampton. There is no Bedford University, but De Montfort Uni has a campus in Bedford.
I remain baffled as to why people pay so much for what seems to be no more than a certificate though.
posted by biffa at 9:22 AM on October 15, 2003


Sorry for not noting the large PDF -- I forget some people don't have ethernet connections. (I'm always getting in trouble for something around here, it seems.) Glad you guys liked the post though.
posted by MikeB at 11:14 AM on October 16, 2003


Absolutely fascinating. It amazes me that there are people in this world who stoop to this.
posted by davidmsc at 9:50 AM on October 17, 2003


Why not have a fake degree from somewhere a little more middle-of-the road? All these places are supposedly prestegious, but what employer is going to check up on your Liberal Arts Masters Degree from the University of Sequim? Not that it's ok, mind you, but you'd think people with PhDs would be smarter than that.
posted by hoborg at 2:17 PM on October 18, 2003


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