Indonesia Expat
Education Scams in the City

Fake Diplomas Reflect Indonesia’s Broken Education System


With chop shops camouflaged as “foreign-licensed” universities or “economic institutes”, the demand for fake diplomas continues to thrive in Indonesia.

Around the world, many businesses, organizations and institutions don’t officially recognize university diplomas from Indonesia. Part of the reason for this is the country’s prevalence of counterfeit degrees and a lax rule of law that allows people with enough money to simply buy degrees from corrupt university officials. This dynamic often makes it difficult for honest local graduates to get employed outside the country, but it also leads to Indonesia’s students aiming to attend university abroad if they hope to truly invest in their futures.

The fake diploma scam is nothing new in Indonesia. It’s been around for years, but the trend came back into the limelight in 2014, after a citizen in Rokan Hilir reported his vice-regent for allegedly faking her university diploma.

Fake diplomas are often issued by schools that do not have legal operating licenses from the government. Fake diplomas can also come from otherwise accredited schools that have irregularities in licenses and accreditation.

In May of 2015, a Central Jakarta school going by the name of “University of Berkley Michigan America” was proven to be fake. The so-called institution did not have an operating license to run as a university, but rather just for courses. As an illegal university, the University of Berkley Michigan America offered online learning for its students. Apart from that, it only required students to attend classes on Saturdays and Sundays. With only one classroom and four lecturers, this university manage to attract approximately 500 students by marketing its services via brochures and the internet.

The chairman of the school, Liartha S. Kembaren, forged and issued fake graduation certificates which impersonated foreign diplomas. In reality, real degrees like this must issued by Indonesia’s Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education. After being caught, Kembaren was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Ironically, the organizers of University of Berkley Michigan America claimed to have granted fake diplomas to more than 200 alumni, many of whom went on to become public officials and government workers.

Another interesting case was the higher education institution named Adhy Niaga. Established in 1999, Adhy Niaga was accused of buying and selling fake diplomas. This college allegedly gave out fake diplomas to its graduates without following proper curriculum activities that are required by the appropriate legal channels. Moreover, by just paying a sum of money, students could obtain an undergraduate degree with only one or two years of college.

Eventually, after the so-called college was investigated and audited, Indonesia’s Minister for Research, Technology and Higher Education Muhammad Nasir shut it down. This fake college which was located in Bekasi, West Java, could not explain itself nor show documents requested by the audit team.

In 2015, police arrested a guy who was selling fake diplomas. By forging the certificate and illegally using the name of a well-known and prestigious public university, the perpetrator set the price at Rp.500,000 (US$37) per fake diploma. In total, the man was able to sell 500 fake diplomas and collect Rp.250 million (US$18,773) in a single year. Interestingly, the perpetrator had six other people helping him market the fake degrees. These folks would mark up the price by 600 percent to the end buyers. The man forging the documents was arrested and charged with Article 263 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum of six years in prison. He is also being charged with Education Law number 2 of 2003, an offense worthy of five years in prison.

Because it is often important to have at least an undergraduate degree in today’s world, people in Indonesia are willing to spend money to buy fake diplomas. The pride and prestige one gets as a graduate of a well-known public university is still sought after. People who get desperate sometimes end up buying fake diplomas with a renowned university’s name written on it. They tend to think that by having the diploma, they will get a better job and higher position in society. That desperation and mindset is then exploited by some scammers in Indonesia.

With this in mind, avoiding red flags such as potentially joining a university that has an illogical ratio between its number of lecturers and students would be a wise move. In addition, you can now check whether the university in question is legal via this website made by the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education.

See: Scams In The City: Degrees Of Deception

Image credits: Pinterest

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