Frauds Online - How to Spot Bogus University Websites

The internet is a marvellous invention, indispensable for a small organization with a big remit like the National Postgraduate Committee. Most of our internal activity is done by e-mail and all our output is available on this website. We would be lost without it: our activities would be severely curtailed and if the web did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.

However, like anything else, it is open to abuse. There are lots of bogus sites out there, including ones purporting to be university sites. Overseas students, with less knowledge of UK HEIs, are particularly susceptible to this sort of fraud, especially when approached by offers of fast-track courses with the transfer of credits. These sites may look impressive, with convincing lay-out and figures, but do not be fooled by first impressions. There are several fundamental features which a university website should have.

Firstly, the glossy presentation should include a proper university crest. This is an official, authenticating, symbolic badge, which must appear on all university documents, including advertisements and the website. Do not be fooled by a row of photographs next to the name; look closely!

You should also expect the university to give details about itself. The older ones are very proud of their history and the newer ones are determined to make a good impression, so they always have something to say!

Remember, a website is not a prospectus. This is an official publication, giving full details of staff and courses, faculty by faculty, department by department and should be available online and/or by post.

Contact details are also important. An impersonal e-mail link is insufficient: the website should give full contact details, including postal address, and also telephone and fax. Do not be deceived by attractive photographs, which could be of anywhere; if the site does not say exactly where the university is, it is probably nowhere!

Do not be impressed, either, by references to official educational bodies, like HEFCE or the QAA. These bodies have their own websites; the best one for a quick check is www.hero.ac.uk. Any alleged UK higher education institute not on this site simply does not exist.

Ultimately, any UK university should have an ac.uk address. This is the absolute touchstone: all genuine UK universities have them and any other address is bogus. No matter what they offer, they are fake and are to be ignored.

Finally, if any institution mentions the National Postgraduate Committee in any capacity whatsoever, check with us. We’ll soon put you right!