The students were caught cheating their way into the University of Sydney

“We quickly transitioned to only accepting students from Ontario schools that have passed our rigorous verification processes to ensure the integrity of our admissions.”

The University of NSW also confirmed that there was an increase in admissions fraud linked to the fake Canadian diplomas in 2022, but did not provide details on the number detected.

“When UNSW recognized the … risk last year, the university conducted a full review of all risks [Ontario secondary school diploma] Applicants are pausing their applications until a back-to-source review has been completed to ensure the legitimacy of the qualification and the applicant,” a spokeswoman said.

Salvatore Babones, a sociologist at the University of Sydney, said the scam involving Canadian private institutions was likely used to circumvent English test requirements, which are generally not required for international students with a high school degree from an English-speaking country.

“Our admission requirements for Chinese students are extremely low, so I doubt many would need to falsify their results for academic reasons, but for English language reasons,” he said.

The University of Sydney said it stopped reviewing Chinese qualifications in 2018 due to changes at the China Degree and Graduate Education Development Center. However, the Chinese government can now verify credentials at a cost of about $60 per transcript.

The University of NSW.

The University of NSW.Credit: Walter Peeters

According to the report, consideration needs to be given to whether applicants or the university should bear these costs.

Australian National University higher education expert Andrew Norton said the general experience at Australian universities is that cheating is quite common among Chinese students.

“If they catch that many, I don’t want to see what the actual number is,” he said.

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“Ultimately, the real victims of this are legitimate students. If an employer gets wind that students are not up to date, it undermines the integrity of the degree.”

The scam comes at a time of growing concerns about visa fraud involving international students, particularly those from India.

A spokesman for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) said the regulator is working with other government agencies to respond to fraudulent claims.

“TEQSA has raised concerns with higher education providers about the increased risks associated with recruiting bogus students when accepting online English tests to meet eligibility criteria,” he said.

Earlier this month, the chief commissioner of TEQSA wrote to all higher education providers, highlighting significant compliance risks in the areas of recruiting, admissions and support for international students.

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s Department of Education said the government has not certified certificates or diplomas issued by private schools as “true and correct.”

“The ministry recommends universities that have concerns about the validity of a certificate or diploma to work directly with the private or public school that issued the document to verify its authenticity and confirm the credits earned by the student,” she said.

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Justin Scaccy

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