Fake degrees: A worrying trend in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: An estimated one in 20 potential hires in Malaysia has fake qualifications while one in 10 has credentials from unaccredited institutions, a corporate fraud investigation agency found.

This comes as a foreign documentary showcases a list of possibly over 80 Malaysians with local addresses having allegedly purchased fake degrees via Axact, a Pakistani firm known for degree mills.

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, who is the managing director of Akhbar & Associates, an agency that conducts background checks on potential hires for companies, said 5% to 7% of the people that they investigated had fake degrees while 10% to 15% had degrees from unaccredited universities.

“Many of these people with fake degrees are applying for senior management jobs and it happens in multiple industries, including banks, clinics and hospitals,” said Akhbar, who is also Certified Fraud Examiners Association (Malaysia Chapter) president and former president of Transparency International Malaysia.

He said his agency had also found doctors with fake qualifications.

Akhbar was responding to an Al-Jazeera documentary into fake degree mills in Pakistan that revealed a list of those who allegedly bought fake qualifications, including PhDs and Masters, from Axact.

Although the names of the “students” on the list were censored, it showed that among them were possibly over 80 Malaysians with local addresses.

The list was seized by Pakistani authorities when they raided Axact’s premises.

Axact founder Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh was later arrested and charged with fraud.

In the 101 East documentary, thousands of these fake degree holders were found to be working as doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

“Thousands of people are employed in safety critical jobs while holding bogus qualifications,” it reported.

The 25-minute documentary exposes sales tactics used by fictitious online universities promising thousands of paying students a degree qualification without having to attend any class or take any examination.

Over 370 fake online universities, which claim to be based in the United States, are linked to Pakistani software company Axact, among which are Brooklyn Park University, Nixon University and Newford University.

Among those found to have purchased a bogus PhD was Myanmar’s former planning and finance minister Kyaw Win, who admitted to buying his qualification from the fictitious online university Brooklyn Park.

Akhbar said Malaysia was “one of the worst” when it came to people buying fake degrees because the background-checking practice here was poor.

Most companies, he said, did not lodge a police report or take legal action against their employees with fake degrees and only resorted to internal action.

“In the end, these fake degree holders have no record of their fraud and will get a job in another company. They will continue to work in the system,” said Akhbar, adding that companies had a responsibility to make a police report.

Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed said no organisation should condone the practice of fake qualifications.

She said it was important for the public, especially employers, to ensure that the qualifications of their employees were accredited by the accreditation agencies.

“The Malaysian government has put the quality of higher education a priority as a key factor in producing competitive human resources and talent to support national advancement,” she said, adding that it had set up accreditation systems through MQA and other professional and regulatory bodies.

Employers, she added, could check online the lists of accredited programmes offered by Malaysian higher education institutions through the Malaysian Qualifications Register (MQR) as well as other professional and regulatory bodies.

In Malaysia, there was much uproar when news broke in February that several politicians, including Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya and former Johor mentri besar Osman Sapian, had misrepresented their qualifications.

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