Muscat: Last year the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) got only 15 to 20 cases of fake degrees, compared with almost 50 cases a couple of years ago, a top official from the ministry has said.
The number of people coming to the ministry with fake certificates for equivalency has fallen in the last couple of years, and this is because of better awareness programmes conducted by MoHE, the official added.
“Earlier, we had about three to four students come to us with fake certificates, but now with better awareness programmes, we receive about one to two such cases per month,” said Khadija Al Qurashi, deputy director, Qualification Equivalency and Recognition Department at the Ministry.
“With an increasing number of dubious and unaccredited higher education institutions all over the world, we are trying to help out those applying from Oman to foreign universities to be careful and follow a checklist, so that they don’t become victims of fake universities.”
One of the main factors for this was that when the students applied to higher education institutions, they did not consult the ministry.
“We have a full list of accredited universities from around the world on our website which the students can check before applying,” Khadija said.
In case an applicant intends to apply to a university which is not included in the list, they should first inform the ministry about it. “The applicants should first come to us, they can’t apply to any other universities unless they consult us, and we will introduce this to our committee, who will approve the institutions if the conditions are fulfilled.”
In June 2015, it was reported in The New York Times that more than 200,000 people from the Gulf had bought fake university certificates from a fraudulent Pakistani company that allegedly made millions of dollars from the scam.
The only criteria for the university degree was a valid credit, where the applicant did not need to attend online classes or make study submissions, and the degrees were sent in a little over a fortnight.
For details, students can visit the following link here
List of criteria
There is a list of criteria that a university has to meet before it is placed on the ministry’s list of recommended institutions, Khadija explained, “The university should be approved from the country where it exists, for instance, a university in Japan should be accredited from the Japanese government and not the United Kingdom, France or United States. We also keep in mind if the programme being offered is just for foreign students—if that’s the case, we don’t approve it, because that tells us that the institution is only trying to make money by giving degrees and offering very little knowledge in return, sometimes they won’t even care if a student is attending classes or not.”
Apart from the list of accredited institutions, the ministry also has a separate list of recommended online universities on their website. “We don’t include online universities in our list or approve them unless if they have regular campuses, as well as the online courses.
The ministry is also very careful when it comes to approving online courses because not all types of courses can be studied online, this includes MBBS, Medicine, Engineering and other majors, but subjects, such as MBA or administration can be studied online because they involve only theory.
According to Khadija, the ministry has come across universities, which only have online courses and offices in different parts of the world, no physical campus whatsoever. “As a result, we have students sitting at home and getting certificates delivered to them, which is not right.”
When a student comes back to Oman after obtaining a degree, and applies for work, specifically in the public sector, they will be asked for an equivalency, which is what the “Qualification Equivalency and Recognition Department” at the ministry issues.
“So when people come to us for equivalency, we check everything about the higher education institution, including its rankings and will not issue the equivalency unless we know that the university is accredited.”
Khadija pointed out that if there is a job advertised by the government companies in Oman, they will need equivalency for the degrees of the applicant. “All government sectors are already asking for equivalency, and the certificate is issued through us, so people can’t escape this process, and private sectors are starting to hear about us and doing the same.”
She advised all students about how important it is to check with the MoHE before applying, “If you are in doubt, come to us and we will help, it’s not a bad experience here—we have our set of rules, this is the main thing you should do before you study, it will save your life.”