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Weibo users call for shutdown of fake university websites

Another 73 websites of fake universities in 16 provinces in China were exposed in a recent survey (link in Chinese) by Shangdaxue (meaning “go to college in Chinese”), a non-governmental education service website.

Among the 73 fake universities, 23 are from Beijing, followed by Shandong province with 8, and Shanghai and Sichuan with 7. Others are in provinces of Guangdong, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Tianjin, Liaoning, Hebei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian, Henan, and Hubei.

It is the fifth investigation by Shangdaxue since 2013 of fake universities throughout China, as part of its efforts to prevent parents and students who are about to take college entrance exam from being cheated by fake universities. So far over 400 fake universities have been exposed by the organization, according to Zhang Xun, general manager of Shangdaxue.

While most of the fake universities use names similar to the verified universities, some use the previous names of the current universities. And the introduction of the universities is also made up or copied from other legal universities.

The primary intention of the fake universities is to sell fake diplomas to students, with the prices ranging from 150 yuan (around $22) to 4,500 yuan (around $687), according to @新浪微博, the official Weibo account of Sina News.

According to Zhang, among the 73 fake universities, 72 IP addresses are from foreign countries such as the US, Hong Kong and Korea.

“We have checked the domain names through a third party. It is much easier to build a website when the domain and IP addresses are from outside China,” he said, “That is why on the one hand China is cracking down on such websites, and on the other hand the number is rising.”

While some people on social media call the fake universities as “diploma mills”, an expert says the difference between such fake universities and the “diploma mills” is whether there is actually a real school.

“While ‘diploma mills’ in other countries may have real addresses, but only the diplomas are fraudulent, such fake universities only have websites through which they sell fraudulent diplomas. It’s just like e-crime,” said Xiong Bingqi, vice president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, quoted by the Beijing News.

Another reason the fake universities can survive is that there are parents and students who have the need to get fake diplomas, according to Xiong.

“Those who buy the fake diplomas can check the degrees on the websites, so they can cheat the employers,” he said.

The news also triggered some discussion on Sina Weibo on Friday (Beijing time), China’s largest social media, with the hashtag 73 diploma mills were exposed, at one point becoming the third hottest topic on Friday afternoon. Yet, while several V-marked Weibo accounts such as @央视新闻, (official Weibo account of CCTV), @法制晚报 (official Weibo account of Legal Evening News), and @新京报, (official Weibo account of The Beijing News), posted articles telling users to watch out for such fake websites, some users called on authorities to enhance supervision on such illegal doings.

“While you are telling people to watch out, isn’t it perfect to just shut them down,” said @凯旋的微博.

“What’s the point of pushing such news to us? Just to let us watch out? I would rather prefer news titled as ‘73 diploma mills banned in 2016’,” said @我是正牌大萌一.

According to Xiong, since the activities of such fake universities amount to swindling, it should be the judiciary instead of the education departments to handle this issue.

According to a staff member of Shangdaxue, one of the ways to differentiate a real website from a fake one is whether the domain has “edu”, the abbreviation for education. However, if the “edu” is linked to the previous letters with a dash, it is very likely to be a fake website, for example, while is a real website, http:/ is a fake one.

So far, several fraudulent websites have been blocked.

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