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This is about your life!

Have you ever seen one of these game shows where candidates are offered different options or doors they have to choose from? Well, imagine you are at one of these game shows. But this one is actually about your life and not just a vacation in Puerto Rico:

Welcome to today’s show of This is your life – live it! You can choose from one of the following doors:

First door: You will apply to a recognized university, study there for 4 years, make friends, spend endless nights studying and going through the whole academic experience. If you choose this door you’ll have to pay at least 250.000 USD, go through this 4-year experience and well, there is no guarantee that you’ll get a job afterward. But, hey, it’s about the experience, isn’t it?

Second door: We will connect you with someone who just started in his parent’s backyard a ‘university’ with a really nice name. He’ll just charge you 5.000 USD, you’ll take some courses his friends are teaching each Saturday afternoon and in one year you’ll get an MBA from Northington University (this name is obviously completely made up). Just in case somebody googles for this university, they will find some really well-crafted information and on Google Maps it shows a really cool castle in a village with the same name. You’ll b e envied by your future colleagues at XYZ Corporation!

Third door: This door is for you if you can’t wait that long. If you choose door #3 you will meet a true artist who will create your very own diploma from ABC University (choose a real university you really like!). Once you see the diploma, you won’t be able to see the difference to the real one and neither won’t the HR at XYZ Corporation. The best thing though, it just costs you a sweet 1.000 USD and you’ll have it in your hands in just one week.

How do you decide?

Now, the decision is yours! Do you choose door #1 where you spend 250.000 USD and 5 years of your life, door #2 with 5.000 USD and 1 year of your life or door #3 with a sweet 1.000 USD and in one week you can apply to your dream job? Decide now!

Does this sound like an exaggeration? Well, it isn’t. Those descriptions are aligned with real-life situations. In my most recent post (The best of the best?) I wrote about high profile fraud cases and how people got to the top of their organizations with nothing more than a strong will and a fake title. In another post (Will your MD kill you?) I even wrote about cases where this kind of behavior cost lives. 

If you think that those are just isolated cases and that you feel that this doesn’t really affect you, neither in a job application (The best of the best?) nor any of your medical treatments (Will your MD kill you?), think again. Just as one example, in 2014 a truly massive visa fraud scheme was exposed in the UK, where tens of thousands of migrants bought and presented falsified language test certificates to the authorities. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26024375) Authorities talked about more than 50.000 (fifty thousand) test results being false or questionable. This is just one of the cases where test results are falsified. Examples can be found worldwide and put into question titles, certificates and diplomas in any area of professional certification, undergraduate or graduate studies. Former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who co-wrote the book “Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry“, estimates half of all new PhDs issued every year in the U.S. are fake.

And now?

With this in mind universities and companies have to find creative solutions to respond to the threat of falsified documents and degree mills. If our society and our organizations put more value on a paper than on acquired competencies, something is seriously wrong. To recover society’s trust in degrees, certificates, and titles, institutions have to find a way to easily identify falsifications and unaccredited institutions. Turning a blind eye to this situation will neither help universities, nor companies or students.

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