Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Murmurs of Axact Around the World

The New York Times today broke a massive piece of investigative journalism centered around a global diploma mill based in Karachi, Pakistan, which also exposes what is presumably the country's number one services company, Axact. The sheer scale of the fraud is breathtaking, with victims virtually all over the world west of Pakistan, but not inside Pakistan itself. News is that just today, the Karachi police raided Axact's very modern office.

However, for us in India and indeed even the US, this is a reminder of a very real malaise. India is no stranger to diploma mills. While IIPM, which used to boldly advertise its MBA degree from an unheard-of university in Belgium until the Delhi High Court recently restricted it, is a well-known case because of all the publicity it got (primarily due to IIPM's own full-page ads), there are many more. Periodic disclosures of fake degrees of politicians, such as the recent case of an AAP MLA in Delhi, just prove that point. Even in the US, the case of Trivalley University is infamous.

While law enforcement agencies should certainly crack down on diploma mills, there is still the burning question as to why they have such a large market, despite many customers knowing full well that it's fraud. The reason is complex and is tied to the necessity of higher education to move up the value chain as well as the exorbitant cost of higher education. Together, these two forces effectively shut out a large part of the workforce from advancement and they resort to fraud as a consequence. While subsidizing all higher education like Europe may be an answer, it is not necessarily sustainable. A better solution might lie in vocational schools that impart real-world skills that bring employment at affordable and sustainable rates. 

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