Avoiding bogus degrees

It's important to know that your degree is valid. If it's not, it won't count when you’re looking for a job. Not all degrees advertised are recognised by UK government or employers but it's easy to find out which are genuine.

Finding a genuine degree course provider

If you want a genuine UK degree, make sure that your course leads to a degree awarded by a recognised degree-awarding body. Universities and some colleges in the UK are given the power to award degrees by Act of Parliament or Royal Charter. They are then recognised as degree-awarding bodies by the UK government and other official organisations, and known as 'Recognised Bodies'.

The degrees that they award are known as 'recognised UK degrees'. Some colleges do not grant degrees but run courses on behalf of Recognised Bodies, which contribute to a degree. These are known as 'Listed Bodies'. Only Recognised Bodies can award UK degrees and only courses provided by them, or by Listed Bodies, can lead to a recognised UK degree.

The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills in Great Britain maintains the official record of Recognised Bodies and the official record of Listed Bodies:

Register of sponsors

Universities and colleges who recruit students from outside the European Economic Area (which includes all the EU countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) must also be registered on the UK Border Agency's register of sponsors.

However, it's important to remember that the register of sponsors exists to make sure that people working or studying in the UK do so legally.

Just because an institution appears on the register, doesn't mean that it can award recognised UK degrees - and it doesn't guarantee the quality of education at that institution. If you are applying for a higher education course, you should still check that the institution is a Recognised Body or Listed Body.

Spotting bogus degrees

There are organisations which offer bogus degrees or degree courses. Often publicising themselves through the internet, they:

  • offer qualifications that are not recognised by the authorities in any country
  • use English-sounding names and addresses without actually being located in the United Kingdom
  • take your money but give nothing in return and do not give a refund

If you suspect that an organisation which appears to be in the UK is awarding bogus degrees, contact the Northern Ireland Trading Standards Service.

Degree checklist

Before paying any money or registering for your chosen course, make sure you:

  • know which university or awarding body will award the degree at the end of the course
  • if you want to study for a UK degree, check the list of Recognised Bodies to make sure that the awarding body is acknowledged by the UK authorities as having degree-awarding powers

If the awarding body is not based in the UK, check that the degree is recognised or accredited by the government of the country that it operates from.

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