Publicity surrounding the legitimacy of the qualifications of a leading light at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has raised the issue of degree mills and emphasised the importance of credentials verification.

There has been extensive media coverage of TUT’s acting Vice Chancellor Professor Johnny Molefe and questions posed regarding the authenticity of his degree.

Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ideco Group and an established credentials verification services provider in South Africa. Its CEO, Ina van der Merwe, confirms that degree mills are on the increase.

MIE is aware of at least 1 000 degree mills worldwide. The Internet is an effective resource through which to target and reach individuals, from ordinary members of the public through to professionals in high profile positions says van der Merwe.

The company owns and operates the National Qualifications Register, a database that stores 3-million graduate records from 23 institutions in South Africa – and it’s wary of anyone claiming a degree who is not listed on the register.

“Statistics from June of this year show that 2 500 people have been less than truthful about their qualifications,” she says. “The issue of legitimacy and integrity of academic qualifications will continue to receive media attention because of the extent to which it affects employers and employees.”

MIE warns decision-makers that failure to check and confirm credentials could result in their organisation or institution facing unnecessary risk.

“This issue of instilling and building trust, of having people within the organisation that possess genuine credentials filters through to other levels within an institution or company, ” Van der Merwe says.