Hedd is UK Higher Education's official service for candidate verification and university authentication. Managed by Prospects, Hedd was launched in 2011 with funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It provides enquirers with the ability to verify a candidate's academic credentials or authenticate a university or college in the UK. The remit of the service is to protect UK universities, employers and graduates from degree fraud.
Hedd is part of a suite of activities under the Government's £18m University Modernisation Fund (UMF) - a HEFCE fund that aims to help universities and colleges deliver better efficiency and value for money through the development of shared services.
There is reported to be a growing number of instances of misrepresentation and forgery in the production and reporting of degree results and other academic qualifications. Verifying degree results is an important part of the recruitment process for employers of graduates, and for Higher Education providers recruiting first degree graduates onto postgraduate courses and research programmes.
Degree fraud can come in several forms, all of which are illegal. This includes bogus universities and degree mills, fake certificate websites and fraud by false representation.
Bogus universities and degree mills operate purely to make money - from enrolment fees, premium phone lines, course fees and 'life experience degree' awards - and in doing so provide a means for fraudsters to obtain authentic-looking degrees and associated documentation from unaccredited institutions.
This type of fraud is becoming more sophisticated, with credible websites and verification services often modelled on their authentic counterparts - including the direct lifting of content and sections of material from genuine university websites.
There are a multitude of websites offering 'novelty' or 'replacement' degree certificates for as little as £30. These websites carry disclaimers about not using the documentation to make fraudulent misrepresentations in order to avoid prosecution. However they are breaching the copyright and trademarks of the universities whose certificates they are imitating.
When someone presents a fake certificate or alters a genuine university document - changing the name, subject, qualification, or classification - and presents the documents as real they have committed fraud by false representation. These can be hard to spot, as they are based on real certificates. The only way to verify their authenticity is to check with the issuing institution or Hedd. Presenting this documentation as genuine in job applications constitutes fraud by misrepresentation and can lead to prosecution resulting in prison sentences of up to ten years.
All types of degree fraud are illegal. Hedd is working with enforcement bodies such as Trading Standards and CIFAS, including overseas, to investigate and force closure. Under UK law the word 'University' is protected meaning that no one except a valid UK degree-awarding body can call themselves a university.
Are there many bogus providers?
Hedd and the Department for Education, have identified more than 240 bogus providers, see 'Check an institution'.
Does it happen often?
In every survey covering the subject around one third of people admit to lying on their CV, with misrepresenting educational qualifications being the most common lie.
What can I do about it?
If you are aware of bogus providers call Hedd's degree fraud team on 0161 277 5238 (calls to this number will be charged at 2 pence per minute, plus your operator's access charge) or contact us
Advice for Higher Education Providers
A Toolkit for Higher Education Providers has been produced by Hedd in collaboration with Department for Education to provide advice and guidance on degree fraud.
Advice for employers
A Toolkit for Employers has been produced by Hedd in collaboration with Department for Education to provide advice and guidance on degree fraud.
Should I ask to see certificates?
Yes. You should always ask to see a certificate - the original document not a copy, if possible.
How can I tell if a certificate is genuine?
To check if a certificate is genuine you need to check with the awarding institution. This can be done by using Hedd or by contacting the university directly if the institution is not a member of Hedd.
Why do I need to check the certificate with a university or college?
It is important that you check with the university or college because the graduate may have attended the institution, but not completed the course or tampered with the certificate to improve their qualification or grade. They may also not have attended the institution and the certificate could be a complete fake.
How can I make checks?
To verify a degree you can use the candidate verification service on the Hedd website providing that they attended one of the listed institutions Hedd works with. These are listed on the homepage. If they did not attend one of the listed institutions, Hedd provides contact details for all UK higher education institutions. Hedd also tells enquirers which university holds the records for institutions that do not exist anymore through mergers or name changes. The university look-up service is accessible from the homepage without registration being required. It is also accessible on the enquirer dashboard once you have registered an account.
What if the CV or certificate is different to the university records?
Get as much information from the candidate as possible, check with the candidate again to make sure everything is correct. Ask them to contact the university if they are certain their details are correct.
Should I report it? Who should I report it to?
Degree fraud is a criminal offence so yes, you should report it. Contact our Hedd degree fraud team on 0161 277 5238 (calls to this number will be charged at 2 pence per minute, plus your operator's access charge) for advice.
What should my organisation do to protect itself from degree fraud?
It is important you have a clear policy regarding degree fraud. You should always check the information on CVs or certificates when you recruit someone. Always ask to see original certificates and check that all the information is correct with the awarding institution.
Advice for students and graduates
Is it illegal to lie about my degree?
Yes. Embellishing your qualifications, tampering with your degree certificate, or obtaining a fake degree certificate is a criminal offence under the Fraud Act 2006.
What are the consequences?
Lying about your degree can have serious consequences. You could face up to 10 years imprisonment, as well as having your degree revoked. It will also severely damage your reputation. To find out more see the CIFAS Leaflet 'Don't Finish Your Career Before It Starts'.
How can I check if a university or college is a genuine UK degree-awarding body?
You can check if the university/college is an official UK degree-awarding body using our 'Check an institution' page. We have a full list of all UK degree-awarding bodies. If you can't find an institution you are searching for, contact us or call the degree fraud team on 0161 277 5238 (calls to this number will be charged at 2 pence per minute, plus your operator's access charge).
Can I use Hedd to verify my qualifications?
Hedd is not for use by students or graduates to verify their own awards. Please contact your university or college directly.
I can't find my certificate, what should I do?
If you're unable to find your degree certificate you should contact the student service team at the institution that you obtained the degree from - do not use so-called 'replacement certificate' sites - they are not genuine certificates. Also under no circumstances should you attempt to recreate your certificate, or obtain a new one from anyone except from the university.
Where can I get more advice and information?
You can get more information from your university careers service, or by visiting the Prospects website, for help with improving your applications and CV. You can also check with student service centres for queries about your award, certificates and transcripts.
Hedd is managed by Prospects, part of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) on behalf of Universities UK and Guild HE.