DUBAI: In the eye of a global firestorm for selling fake degrees, Pakistani firm AXACT raked most of its ill gotten millions from the UAE, an XPRESS investigation has found.
Over the past four years, hundreds of residents have paid the dubious IT company from Dh5,000 to Dh50,000 for credentials issued by non-existent colleges purportedly based in the US or UK and with high sounding names like Rochville University, Midtown University, Baytown University, Edgebrook University, Belford University, Ahsley University.
Degree holders from the 350 odd diploma mills, reportedly floated by AXACT in the virtual world, are now working in the UAE, having secured high-paying jobs on the strength of these fake academic qualifications.
From banking to hospitality, hospitals and retail, you name it and they are there.
Don’t believe this? Go to social networking website LinkedIn and type the names of any of these universities + UAE + CEO + manager in the search box.
You will find a deluge of profiles boasting qualifications from these fake institutes. While a response from LinkedIn was not immediately available, random calls made to around 20 professionals flaunting phony credentials on the website revealed that many were unsuspecting victims. In fact, they didn’t know their costly degrees are not even worth the paper they are printed on until XPRESS told them about the audacious scam.
The realisation has left them shattered.
Dr R. Srivastava who works at a reputed hospital in Dubai said she can’t believe her PhD in quality management from Midtown University is good for nothing. She spent Dh40,000 on the ‘course’ between 2011 and 2014. “I saw Midtown’s advertisement on Facebook and enrolled for the course hoping it would enhance my career,” Dr Srivastava told XPRESS.
- Read: XPRESS story that unearthed this online fake degree scam
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The university made itself look so genuine I never suspected a thing. They used to send course material and I spent months preparing my thesis. But now it looks like all my three years of hard work and hard-earned money have gone down the drain,” added the Indian woman who has since removed her LinkedIn profile.
Dodgy credentials: Linkedin is littered with profiles of UAE-based professionals boasting bogus degrees.
An IT manager at a software firm who forked out Dh18,000 for an online computer networking degree from Edgebrook University is equally gutted. “This is heart-wrenching. Would you believe, I even threw a party to celebrate my graduation. I had been saving for years for this course hoping it would help me get a promotion,” said the Egyptian.
Not everyone could handle the truth. “What do you mean my degree is fake?” demanded Ali, vice-president of a retail firm, when XPRESS called him about his MBA degree from Rochville University.
“My degree is 100 per cent genuine. It’s duly attested by all relevant agencies and I have been using it for years,” he said angrily before disconnecting the line. Ali may want to know that his fellow alumni at Rochville was a dog. The year Ali got his degree, the university also awarded an MBA to a canine named Chester.
This happened when an undercover Singaporean journalist enrolled her pub for the university’s online MBA programme. The dog’s degree came in a parcel couriered from a Dubai address. An insider at AXACT said the UAE was their most lucrative market after the US. “Hundreds of school dropouts from the US bought our degrees to land jobs in Iraq and other Middle East cities. The UAE was key to our operation. We funnelled nearly Dh288 million from here to Pakistan in the past four years,” the man said, citing anonymity. He refused to give details.
A New York Times report quoting an ex AXACT staff collaborates the man’s account. The firm’s Dubai office in Media City has remained closed for two years. On Wednesday, AXACT CEO Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh was arrested in Pakistan.
Earlier, the country’s interior minister hinted a broader investigation, saying assistance has been sought from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Interpol. As authorities untangle the web of deceit and subterfuge, some in the UAE who had knowingly acquired the dubious degrees remain defiant. “How does it matter if it’s fake?” asked a Lebanese, who has climbed the corporate ladder armed with a degree from Belford University “Don’t call me again,” said the man, now a CEO at a real estate firm.
A director at an investment firm also eluded questions when XPRESS enquired about his dubious Ashley University degree. “Are you CID? Who authorised you to call me? Stop wasting my time,” he said, slamming the phone down.
(Names of degree holders have been altered)
BOGUS CERTIFICATES: Sample of a fake degree issued by Edgebrook University and the MBA degree awarded to Chester the dog, by Rochville University. Both are among hundreds of degree mills operating on the internet. Don’t be fooled by them. They have impressive websites and they advertise heavily online with taglines such as “fast track MBA, “instant degree,” “life experience degrees”. Remember, a real university will never advertise through tele-marketing and pop-ups.
Image of an MBA degree awarded to Chester the dog, by Rochville University, and below, a sample of a fake degree issued by Midtown University
ALERT: Is your staff from any of these universities?
- Rochville University
- Belford University
- Midtown University
- Edgebrook University
- Belltown University
- Ashley University
- Port Jefferson University
- Paramount California University
HR managers, be forewarned!
These universities exist only on the internet and are among hundreds of degree mills which allow people to buy degrees online fast and without the hassle of appearing for an exam. The only qualification one needs is a valid credit card.
What is a degree mill?
A degree mill is an unaccredited higher education institution that offers illegitimate academic degrees for a fee. These degrees may claim to give credit for relevant life experience, but should not be confused with legitimate prior learning assessment programmes. These education scams prey on consumer ignorance about terms like “accreditation” and “licensing”. Using such degrees in the UAE could land you in serious trouble with the law. If you have bought it, just forget it as a bad investment.