Fake degrees
There were also thousands of supposedly skilled expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia who arrived with fake diplomas and experience certificates Image Credit: Shutterstock

A Scottish female national who was appointed as a director at one of the largest hospitals in Saudi Arabia has recently been found to have created a fraudulent Master’s degree certificate to apply for the job and has been suspended by the Scottish board for nine months after a panel ruled she had created a bogus degree.

Although she didn’t need the additional Midwifery qualification to apply for the director’s post at King Fahad Military Medical Complex, she must have assumed that to guarantee her employment a Masters degree would be the icing on the cake.

However, after the recruiters at the hospital sent copies of her diplomas to the concerned university for verification, it was discovered that she had created a fake certificate with the forged signature of a dead man and sent it off as part of her application in early 2019.

The institution where the lady had completed her undergraduate studies back in 2001 had no record of her receiving a Masters. Officials at the university also ‘spotted the certificate appeared to have been signed by the university chancellor who had passed away four years earlier.’

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They added that ‘they spotted several similarities between the fake degree and her genuine undergraduate certificate, which she had been awarded in 2001. Official records showed the already qualified midwife ‘was not even halfway towards the 180 academic credits needed for a Masters.’

When confronted, she admitted to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that she listed the degree on her CV, but denied that it was a ‘dishonest bid to tart up her application’.

At the hearing that followed the discovery, she claimed that ‘the Master’s degree was granted to her as a lecturer had advised her she was eligible for it. However, she could not provide proof she had achieved the credits needed for the top-class degree.’

The investigating panel concluded that her explanations were ‘not plausible; and that she had acted dishonestly, with her ‘premeditated act motivated by financial gain’. After examining her genuine undergraduate degree to the fake Masters degree side by side, they noted that in almost all respects they were the same with the exception of the Masters honour plastered across the fake document.

A position of privilege

A disciplinary panel that followed the initial investigation decided there was evidence enough to prove she knew what she was doing was wrong. In a statement released following the hearing, they concluded that her ‘deplorable’ behaviour fell ‘seriously short’ of the standards expected of senior midwives and issued a suspension.

In addressing her, the panel noted that ‘Midwives occupy a position of privilege and trust in society and are expected at all times to be professional. Patients and their families must be able to trust midwives with their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

To justify that trust, midwives must be honest and open and act with integrity. Your dishonesty was serious and involved the deliberate use of a false and inaccurate Master’s degree certificate in a job application for a lucrative, overseas post.’

This is but one of thousands of such cases of false degrees and fake diplomas in abundance in oil-rich countries as some expatriates take advantage of lax human resources departments at some of the facilities and forge themselves into nice positions without the necessary qualifications required.

While some resort to faking their own diplomas as in the case of this midwife, others reach out to expert con artists to bolster their credentials. Fake college degrees can be a profitable business for those orchestrating them.

Prices for a fake Bachelors or Masters degree can cost anywhere from $3000 to $10,000 while a bogus doctoral degree can cost up to $30,000 from an institution in the west.

With the advent of the internet within everyone’s reach, the issuance of fake degrees has become a universal dilemma and has made it easier for diploma mills to snare prospective candidates for bogus certification through fake ads or spam. Such institutions simply create a website that looks like it belongs to a genuine university.

A US media investigative team reported that such sites would provide online payment options for customers as well as details for prospective employers who might contact them to verify whether a degree is genuine or not, and that bogus degree markets thrive in Romania, India, Israel, and Egypt.

A few years ago, a Saudi newspaper broke a story that there were more than 800 so-called engineers in the Kingdom working with bogus university degrees. It also said there were hundreds of Ph.D. degree holders in the Kingdom from bogus universities.

There were also thousands of supposedly skilled expatriate workers who arrived with fake diplomas and experience certificates. The report concluded that ‘the foreigner whom we have contracted as a medical doctor may be, in fact, a grave digger!’

HR departments should take heed and pay a revisit to some of those pending diplomas lying in their file cabinets.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena