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Is the region facing a fake university degree phenomenon?

News of rising university fees and overbearing student loans is on everyone’s mind. The affordability of attending a university continues to decrease, and more young people are finding it tougher than ever before to earn an undergraduate degree.

According to The Value of Education: Higher and higher, a global annual report published by HSBC in 2017 which surveyed 15 countries among them the UAE, Egypt and the UK, UAE parents spend an average of $99,378 on a child’s education from primary school all the way to undergraduate studies.

Tertiary education costs an average of over AED 76,000 ($21,000) per year for UAE-based universities in comparison to $15,000 in Australia and Canada,$23,000 in the US, and $15,500 in the UK, according to a 2016 research by insurance company Zurich.

For many people, the following question then comes to mind: Why should I waste 3 to 5 years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars on obtaining a degree?

Some have taken this question to heart, going as far as breaking the law to spare themselves the mental and financial anguish.

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Degrees! Degrees for sale! Get ‘em right here! 

Lebanon is first on our list. The Daily Star reports that soldiers in the Lebanese Army that applied for a promotion with fraudulently authenticated diplomas led Army Intelligence to uncover a network of Lebanese private universities that are selling forged degrees.

Several members from the administrations of two private Lebanese universities in Beirut and Bekaa were reportedly detained for questioning Saturday by the Army Intelligence Directorate.

A degree helps soldiers get promoted from private to first adjutant, according to a report by local daily Al-Akhbar.

The Daily Star’s sources report that the amount charged for a fraudulent degree may range from $2,000 to $9,000.

This isn’t the first instance of such foul play either.

Earlier this year, Al-Jadeed TV channel reported on Sidon University College, which was reportedly selling degrees authenticated by the ministry. Undercover reporters filmed a meeting with the university’s representative, who offered a fraudulently authenticated degree for $4,000.

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Kuwait’s corruption rating on the rise – fake degrees to blame?

Kuwait’s corruption ranking by Transparency International dropped to 85 out of 161 countries listed in the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, down from the rank of 41 the year before.

Forged university degrees have played a role in this fall from grace, which has gradually been unfolding into a much more invasive problem.

The public prosecution ordered the detention of an Egyptian employee this week at the higher education ministry for allegedly helping holders of fake university degrees to register those degrees and get appointed in the government, the Kuwait Times reports.

Later in the week, five people suspected of holding fake university degrees were jailed pending investigation and trial and 45 others are under investigation, the head of the National Assembly’s educational committee announced.

The issue has stunned the country amid reports that the number of people holding forged university degrees could be as high as 1,000 and that some of them are well-known public figures and others could be in high government posts, Kuwait Times explains.

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Fake degrees in UAE? Not what you think

UAE has suffered the blight of fake degrees as well, but not in the manner you’d think. Holders of fraudulent degrees in the country were, in fact, unaware their degrees were fake.

This story broke two years ago, and was back in the news early this year when an investigative report by Gulf News revealed that following the conning of several UAE citizens by Karachi-based firm AXACT, the criminal company was demanding “legislative fees” under the guise of being Emirati officials. The Pakistani company owns 350+ non-existent universities through which they offered fraudulent courses and degrees, claiming their universities existed in the UK and the US, among other countries.

Among the many who fell for the phone call scam is a medical technologist in Al Ain, Gulf News reports. Fearing action, the woman sold all her jewelry to raise almost $70,000 of which $30,000 was remitted to AXACT the very night she got a call from an agent claiming to a representative of the UAE embassy in the US.

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Also a big UK problem

The “selfie generation” of students who are about to graduate have been urged not to post pictures of themselves posing with their diplomas online to stem the trade in fake certificates, The Times UK reported.

“The number of forgeries is estimated to have risen by up to 30% in the past year. The most accurate, which are sold online for about £220 ($289) and can be used to deceive prospective employers, are considered such a threat that 20 universities, including Cardiff and Imperial College London, are offering digital certificates that cannot be faked,” reports the daily.

Graduates give companies a login to access a copy and check the credentials.