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Diploma Mills

What is a Diploma Mill?

Diploma Mills are organisations that award academic degrees and diplomas with very little or no academic study and without recognition by official accrediting bodies. Such organizations operate without monitoring by state or professional agencies and grant diplomas, which are fraudulent or, because of the lack of proper standards, are considered worthless.

What is ABNAB doing to protect the public from Diploma Mills?

ABNAB continuously scan the tertiary education sector to detect the existence of potential diploma mills operating in or offering qualifications to Antigua and Barbuda nationals. Additionally, ABNAB disseminates information on ‘diploma mills’ and other such ‘fraudulent’ tertiary level institutions through its website, advertisements, bulletins and other forms of media so as to inform the public of such institutions operating in Antigua and Barbuda.

ABNAB ensures awareness by visiting students, employers and other stakeholders and informing them of the importance of pursuing tertiary level study at recognized institutions, and seeking qualifications that will be accepted by employers and institutions locally, regionally and globally.

How can I tell if an institution is a Diploma Mill?

Here are some characteristics of Diploma Mills:
          • Names that are similar to those of well-known colleges or universities;
          • Not quality assured by a recognized accrediting body;
          • Little or no study required for diploma or degree
          • Declaration of accreditation from ‘bogus’ or not recognized accrediting bodies;
          • Frequent changes of address or administrative offices housed in rented mailboxes;
          • Contact is by e-mails only;
          • Written material with spelling and grammatical errors (sometimes on the diploma itself), as well as brochures, websites and documents with pretentious language;
          • Overemphasis on the affordability and the impact a degree will have on job prospects;
          • Little or no selectivity in admissions, often advertising their ‘open door’ policy;
          • Very limited or even no interaction with professors;
          • Degree requirements that are few and often unspecified;
          • Degrees that can be earned over a much shorter period of time than conventional institutions; some degrees may be advertised for completion in just a few months, weeks or even days;
          • Tuition and fees that are often advertised on a per-degree basis. For example, students may be offered a discount for enrolling in several degree programmes at once; provisions may even be made for the institution to deduct monthly payments from an individual's bank account.

If an institution is not accredited, does this mean that it is a Diploma Mill?

Yes and No.

An institution can be lacking accreditation, and still not be a Diploma Mill. Here are four (4) general levels in which an institution can fall into:
          • Diploma Mill
          • Unaccredited Institutions with Low Credibility
          • Unaccredited Institutions with High Credibility
          • Accredited Institutions

1) Diploma Mills (this has been discussed previously-see above)

2) Unaccredited Institutions with Low Credibility

Some characteristics of an Unaccredited Institution with Low Credibility:

          • Limited work/thesis required
          • Use of experience for credit
          • Reduced time for degree – PhD in one (1) year rather than five (5) years
          • Accreditation gained by fraudulent accrediting institutions.

These are perhaps the most dangerous, since they have a semblance of credibility, and therefore the uninformed can be easily deceived. Some persons also categorize these as Diploma Mills.

3) Unaccredited Institutions with High Credibility

Most institutions in Antigua and Barbuda (in the wider Caribbean region) fall under the category of “Unaccredited Institutions with High Credibility”.

Some of the reasons these institutions are not accredited include:
          • High Cost – Cost for preparation for accreditation and cost of conducting accreditation
          • Voluntary – Accreditation is not mandatory in Antigua and Barbuda
          • Different value system
          • Not a part of our culture
          • Have a recognized track record and are affiliated to reputable institutions

4) Accredited Institutions:

These institutions have undergone the rigors of:
          1) Self Examination
          2) Peer Review and site visits
          3) Judgment by an accrediting agency and given the status of accredited and
          4) Commitment to periodic review to maintain its accredited status