Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that the Saudi government is undertaking a crash program to verify university degrees claimed by state employees. Over the past several years, it’s been discovered that people are claiming degrees they never attained as well as degrees and certificates issued by ‘degree mills’, organizations that swap degrees for money and require very little, if any actual academic work.

The US, unfortunately, doesn’t make the matter of degrees simple. Each of the 50 states writes its own laws about what is necessary to become an institution of higher education. Rather than one, national law, there are scores. Some states will issue authority based on the utility of a degree to the state’s citizens, not comparing them to what is generally understood by a university degree. The schools are legal, but only within those states. With thousands of schools to choose from, it’s not difficult for a foreign student to end up in the wrong place.

This has been an issue for well over 30 years. The Saudi government has tried various approaches to limiting the damage. I recall that in the 1980s, the government drew up lists of universities whose degrees would be accepted. The problem was that many reputable universities weren’t on the list. Then there was the problem of certain universities starting up program in ‘Urban Studies’, all the way through the doctorate level, that actually did very little teaching. At one point, the government was considering a move that would block Saudi students from attending any university in the University of California system.

Still, the issue of bogus degrees is real. In 2004, over 400 US federal employees were found to be holding bad degrees, including nuclear safety officials. Things didn’t seem to change much by 2007. Even professors at real universities have been found to be holding bogus degrees.

Nor is the issue limited to Saudi Arabia or the US. The problem is indeed a bane on society. Rewards for obtaining fake degrees need to be ended.

Degrees of all govt employees to be verified beginning Jan. 1
Okaz/Saudi Gazette

TAIF — The Ministry of Higher Education will start verifying higher university degree certificates (master’s and doctorate degrees) of government employees effective January 1.

The move is aimed at putting an end to the misuse of bogus certificates to secure jobs and promotions, according to sources at the ministry.

The ministry will undertake the verification process with the cooperation of the Ministry of Civil Service on a priority basis.

The ministry will be sending soon a circular to all government departments instructing them to submit original master’s and doctorate degree certificates of their employees for verification.

The ministry would then determine whether the certificates are bona fide and are from the recognized universities and institutions or not.

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