Prospects Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd), the higher education's official system for candidate verification and university authentication in the UK, has responded to Panorama's student loans investigation.
The investigation showed how faked qualifications are enabling students to enrol on degree courses at private colleges, paid for by taxpayer-funded student loans.
Responding to the investigation, Jayne Rowley, chief executive of Prospects said, 'We must stop bogus students enrolling in the first place and exploiting the system. Application fraud can easily turn into academic fraud with purchased or plagiarised assignments. Fraudulently obtained degrees could then be used to enter postgraduate study or the work place putting the reputations of businesses and universities at risk. This also jeopardises the prospects for genuine students and graduates seeking jobs or further study if they lose out to fraudsters.
'Unscrupulous agents will look for weak points in the system, and colleges without clearly defined policies will be ripe for exploitation.
'Colleges and universities need to have robust and clearly visible fraud guidelines as part of their admissions policies and they must be prepared to take action against what is criminal activity.
'Admissions offices must verify the qualifications of every applicant with the awarding body. Certificates are easily faked or fraudulently obtained, so should not be taken at face value. Trust the data, not the paper.'
Prospects has provided the degree fraud investigation service on behalf of the Department for Education since 2015 and has produced a free toolkit for education providers, explaining how to institute robust policies to prevent and combat fraud.
For further information visit www.hedd.ac.uk