Bogus Universities Prey on Low-Scoring Students in China

July 24, 2013 Updated: October 8, 2018

After China’s extremely competitive and difficult national college entrance exam—known as the “gaokao”—concluded in June, the over 9 million test-takers have now received their scores, in hopes that their results will land them admission into the country’s top universities and colleges.

For those who did not perform well, however, they are now susceptible to scams by made-up universities that seek to extort tuition money.

On July 22, Chinese website Shang Daxue (“go to university”) published a list of 50 bogus universities and colleges, after they received tips from students and parents who got phone calls notifying them to come in for school admission interviews, or met recruiters recommending schools that do not require a “gaokao” score to be admitted.

Shang Daxue, a website that provides resources to help students choose schools and majors, warned that students who scored low or failed the “gaokao” exam may be especially targeted by these fake universities, taking advantage of their willingness to beat the competition.

The fake universities claim to be located in provinces across the country, including Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Liaoning. Bogus universities with addresses in Beijing comprised the most of the list, with a total of 10. On these universities’ websites, they claim to be accredited institutions, many of them stealing the licensing numbers of actual schools and listing non-existent addresses. Some, like the fake Beijing University of Economics and Law, listed tuition costs that newly admitted students would have to pay.

Some also provided a portal where employers can verify a candidate’s diploma by searching their name and certificate number, suggesting that some people could claim to have graduated from these fake schools.

Several weeks ago, Shang Daxue had published a similar list of 100 fraudulent universities and colleges that sold fake diplomas. This latest list was compiled after checking with the Ministry of Education’s list of accredited institutes of higher education that are authorized to enroll students. The latest list of 50 schools were not on the Ministry’s list.

Many of the fake universities and colleges still had running websites, with online application forms available for prospective students to fill out. These sites often contain detailed information on admission requirements, campus life, the curriculum, and faculty—replete with photos of students and the school grounds—but Shang Daxue found that they were mostly taken from websites of accredited universities or vocational colleges. Many fraudulent school websites had similar content due to its plagiarizing from the same source.

Shang Daxue recommended that students and parents avoid these scams by checking with local education departments for a list of accredited institutions, and making sure the schools’ websites had in their domain name.

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