False academic credentials and qualifications

For several years, NOKUT has focused on work relating to suspicious academic credentials and verification of authenticity. This work has uncovered that false academic qualifications are used in Norway to a significant extent. Higher education institutions and the labour market are probably at a greater risk of such crimes than NOKUT. NOKUT therefore wants to provide information and raise awareness among our applicants and in society at large.

What are false academic credentials?

False academic credentials are documents that refer to academic degrees, courses and grades that the holder of the document has not earned. An official copy/'true copy' of a false document must also be regarded as a false document. There are several types of false academic credentials, and they are often grouped as follows:

  1. Altered academic credentials
    Documents that were authentic when issued, but have subsequently been manipulated by their content being altered. Their content will thus differ from the content the document had at the time it was issued.
  2. Fake documents/documents with incorrect contents
    Such documents can be home-made or created by professional forgers. They include imitations of documents from genuine and established educational institutions, and/or documents that purport to be from an educational institution whose name and logo are similar to an established higher education institution, or are from an institution that only exists on paper.
  3. Academic credentials 'produced at the higher education institution'
    These credentials are issued using the correct templates, stamps and signatures, but they are issued to persons who did not take the education that the document refers to.
  4. Diploma mill/degree mill/fake university
    A diploma mill is an enterprise that produces diplomas and degrees requiring and providing little or no education. Such diplomas are usually signed by persons without the right to award degrees or titles.

Accreditation and recognition of study programmes

The issuing of academic qualifications is a state monopoly. The state delegates this authority to educational institutions through a formal procedure by recognising or accrediting institutions and/or study programmes. The state ensures that academic educations are quality-assured.

What are diploma mills?

Diploma mills are not officially recognised or accredited institutions. They often have false accreditations from false accreditation agencies. In other words, diploma mills do not have the authority to award academic qualifications

Diploma mills advertise their services in newspapers, magazines and especially online, where advertising is cheap and anonymous. People are attracted by promises of better job prospects that an academic degree can lead to, as well as increased social status and prestige. Many different certificates and degrees are offered online. Most of them follow the Anglo-Saxon model, with titles such as Bachelor of Arts/Science, Master of Arts/Science and PhD, but almost everything is available to those who are willing to pay.

What is wrong with diploma mills?

Since it can be difficult to see the difference between a purchased degree and a genuine one, there is a risk of undermining the value of genuine degrees. Students with genuine degrees have to compete with people who have bought their degree. Employers risk appointing people to jobs they are not qualified for. The use of diploma mills could therefore have a negative effect on society as a whole. People should be able to trust that the teacher who teaches their children, the doctor who treats them and the politicians who govern the country have achieved their academic qualifications and degrees in a fair and honest manner.

How can diploma mills be avoided?

NOKUT wishes to raise awareness about false educational institutions, for example by spreading information about the phenomenon to the general public and to everyone who could come into contact with documents issued by diploma mills.

In addition, the general public and applicants for further studies should carry out a thorough check of the accreditation status of relevant institutions. If you are in doubt, ask for our advice!

How does NOKUT react and what are the consequences of using false documents/diploma mills?

NOKUT will reject the application for recognition and report the applicant to the police for using false documents/making a false statement to a public authority. NOKUT has included a clear warning on its application form and will report any applicants who try to gain from using false academic credentials pursuant to:

  • the General Civil Penal Code Section 221 on false testimony
  • the General Civil Penal Code Section 361 on the use of falsified documents.

Section 361 also applies to documents issued to or from non-existing persons or organisations (for example documents issued by diploma mills).

Several cases reported to the police have resulted in convictions.