Does the title ‘university’ need more protection?

In February 2013 the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS)published its Company and Business Names Consultation document as part of the Red Tape Challenge programme to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulation. UK businesses, customers, suppliers and all interested parties, including the public sector, are invited to submit their views on whether regulations relating to names should be repealed or reduced by 22 May 2013. While on the surface this may seem to have little to do with higher education, if you dig a little deeper you’ll see that the word ‘university’ appears on the list of names slated for deregulation, The Guardian reports. How can we find a way to protect the reputation of UK universities and degrees if the word ‘university’ goes unprotected? A perverse measure of the worldwide prestige our universities enjoy is the proliferation of fake alumni claiming bogus degrees from made-up UK institutions. As part of the team leading the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) initiative, I have first-hand experience of this problem. Launched in collaboration with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HFCE ) last year, HEDD provides secure online degree verification and an approved list of bona fide higher education institutions (HEIs). HEDD is also at the forefront of the drive to eliminate degree fraud. Nine HEIs have already moved over to the new system. Many more are in transition, and as a result, we are working hard to safeguard student and sector interests – reassuring domestic and international students about the authenticity of a university and protecting the substantial financial and time investment of genuine graduates.

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