Fake degrees from leading UK universities authenticated by the Chinese government for sale online

By Luke Chafer

Amidst a rise in academic misconduct cases involving Chinese students, The Glasgow Guardian establishes that forged degrees are available for purchase online.

An investigation by The Glasgow Guardian has found that sellers advertising on Weibo and WeChat are selling forged degree certificates from leading UK universities that are advertised as verified by the Chinese government. 

When a student from China studies abroad their degree has to be verified by the Chinese government on its CSSE database and the student will be added to the online archive in order to gain employment. This has been the case since 2006.

As part of our investigation posing as a Chinese national who had failed their undergrad, we were able to set up the purchase of a first-class Undergraduate degree from the University of Glasgow and a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford. The seller stated that the certificates themselves would be “indistinguishable from the original…with an embossed emblem” and came complete with a transcript. The degree certificates themselves cost the equivalent of £2,000 each. The seller then offered authentication by Beijing for an additional £10,000. They stated that payment would be done in installments once I was satisfied with each stage and the final payment be made only once my degree number was searchable on the database. 

The seller, based in Shenzhen, who The Glasgow Guardian used said they had helped 3,000 students over an 8-year period. 

The market for these degrees has been exemplified by a recent FOI (Freedom of Information Request) from the University of Glasgow which showed that Chinese students make up a majority of academic misconduct cases. In the second semester of the 21/22 academic year there were 482 reported cases of academic misconduct of those 211 were from Chinese students, the highest of any nationality making up 43% of all cases. Of those reported 90% of cases involving Chinese students were proven.

Fake degree certificates have been an issue for a number of years and have been widely reported. In 2016 the BBC reported that students were buying fake degrees from fictitious Universities. Speaking to The Glasgow Guardian a student said they purchased a degree in marketing from the University of Hertfordshire for $2000 after dropping out of a medicine degree. The student said: “my family is very achievement driven.. So [my mother] set up the purchase to spark a new academic interest by buying me a bachelor’s degree”. However, the element of government verification now being offered on Chinese social media sites is a new phenomenon. 

The problem is rife in China. The education board published this statement: “If someone is found to provide false information or materials in the certification application materials the applicant will be dealt with in keeping with the Measures for Publicising Untrustworthy Conduct in the Evaluation of Foreign Academic Degrees. Applicants who provide artificial materials or false information will be included in the public list of dishonest behaviours; the service centre will no longer accept any certification applications submitted by them during the period of them being on the list.” 

The Department of Education declined to comment. Instead, they pointed to a report on degree mills from 2016, which bears no mention of foreign government verification. 


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