Fake Degrees and Unaccredited Higher Education Providers

Australia has a strong quality assurance framework which protects the quality of Australian higher education. 

The National Protocols for Higher Education Processes set out common principles underpinning higher education accreditation and approval in Australia.  These are endorsed by Commonwealth, State and mainland Territory Ministers

There is legislative protection for the titles “university” and “degree” in State and Territory legislation and under the Commonwealth Corporations Act 2001

All universities and other institutions approved to offer degrees and other higher education awards are listed on the registers of the Australian Qualifications Framework  You are now leaving the DEST website (AQF).

Institutions that are not listed on the AQF are not recognised by Commonwealth, State and mainland Territory Governments. 

Australian universities (and a small number of other institutions) are generally established under State or Territory legislation and once established they become self-accrediting and responsible for their own standards.  Other institutions may be accredited (usually for a specified period) to offer particular courses leading to higher education awards and are monitored by State or Territory authorities. A list You are now leaving the DEST website of these authorities is provided on the AQF website.

Fake Degrees

There are instances of testamurs and academic transcripts being offered for sale generally via the internet without any study involved.  They could be transcripts for accredited Australian or overseas universities.  They may include a clear disclaimer indicating the qualifications are fake/ to be used for novelty purposes.

Universities are responsible for verifying qualifications offered in their name and protecting the use of their testamurs and academic transcripts, and take this responsibility seriously.

The Australian Government and universities refer cases involving the fraudulent sale or use of fake degrees to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or to the Police as appropriate.  

Bogus Providers

“Degree mills” – providers offering degrees after no or little formal study often via the internet, are a growing phenomenon.  They may use an Australian or overseas address or require money to be sent to an Australian or overseas post box.   

Where there is a traceable link with Australia, the Commonwealth, State and Territory authorities can and do take action.  Australian authorities also cooperate with authorities in other countries to pursue such providers. 

Universities and employers are very conscious of the need to check the authenticity of qualifications.

Unauthorised Higher Education Providers

There are cases of institutions with an Australian name or associated with Australia in some way delivering higher education awards and courses overseas that are not recognised through listing on the AQF.

Only higher education providers listed on the AQF are recognised by the Commonwealth, State and mainland Territory Governments. 

State and Territory Education Departments are responsible for investigating organisations that provide fake degrees in or are operating in the State or Territory and are not authorised to do so. State and Territory Government contact details are available on the AQF External Site website.

You may wish to notify the Department of Education, Science and Training, using the following on-line form, if you have any queries about:

  • an Australian institution; or
  • an institution representing itself as being from Australia.

1. How can I check on the accreditation status of an organisation that calls itself a “university” and/or offers ‘degree’ awards and appears to be operating in Australia?

Check the AQF registers  You are now leaving the DEST website

2. Who would I notify if I came across an unaccredited higher education provider that appears to be operating in Australia?

In the first instance, it would assist State and Territory Education Departments to investigate these organisations if you notified them by mail or email. State and Territory Government contact details are on the AQF website  You are now leaving the DEST website

You could also notify the Department of Education, Science and Training on email on highered@dest.gov.au  or mail to:  The Director, Quality Unit (Location 136), Higher Education Group, PO Box 9880, Canberra ACT 2601. 

3. What protections are in place for overseas students studying in Australia? 

Additional national requirements are in place to protect international students studying in Australia. Only institutions registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) are permitted to provide courses to overseas students. Details about approved institutions and courses for overseas students in Australia can be found at the CRICOS  You are now leaving the DEST website website.