Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Could "Hiring Based on Experience" Be the Solution to Fake Degrees in Saudi Arabia?

OK. Lets admit it. As expatriates, we each (personally) know at least a couple of folks who are working in Saudi Arabia with fake academic degrees. And they've been doing so for years without anyone at work noticing (in most cases). Have you ever asked yourself how they managed to keep their jobs for so long? Do you think their employers kept them for so long despite the fact that they weren't productive? 

I will cite a few examples based on the experience of persons whom I know (no names mentioned):

X and Y are desperate to get a job to feed their families. They have completed at least high school and can speak English better than most Saudis. So, they opt to work as teachers. Now the thing is, employers won't hire teachers who don't have at least a bachelor's degree. X and Y are stranded. They find someone who can get them a fake BA or BSc. Then they pay more to have a copy of their 'fake' certificates authenticated at the Saudi consulate in their home country. Bingo! The employer sees the authenticated copies and he's impressed. X and Y have just landed a job and are keen to keep it because that's how they get to feed their families.

A and B have worked for ten years with fake bachelor's degrees and no one has ever noticed. They feel they have achieved enough experience to pose as holders of master's degrees. That's about double the time required to complete undergraduate and graduate studies combined. They pay someone and get their master's degrees within a few months. They get lucky. A recruiter succeeds in making them land a position as lecturers at a Saudi university. Eureka! The Saudi government grants them visas and all the benefits that follow (housing, medical insurance, paid vacation, two-way ticket, education for two children, etc). 

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not an advocate of fake degree use, and I abhor the use of fake documents (in fact I possess an authentic degree that I spent three years short of a decade to obtain). I'm just saying that shouldn't employers offer jobs based on experience instead of insisting that the minimum requirement should be a "bachelor's" or "master's" degree? How do people with fake degrees sometimes outperform holders of authentic degrees, which employers are so much after? 

The implications of using fake degrees are serious. The Saudi government plans to introduce penalties against people found to be holding fake academic degrees and to deport them from the kingdom. According to one report, fake degree holders will be prosecuted, imprisoned, deported and banned from entering Saudi (more). Although the punishment is harsh, this still doesn't deter people from purchasing counterfeit certificates. I, however, still believe that if employers focus on experience/ skills instead of academic qualifications, many people won't find a reason to break their moral rules to purchase fake degrees. I agree that hiring employees based on experience might only work for some professions, and it will probably not work in the case of engineers or doctors. Thus, it is reasonable for the Saudi government to regulate such high-skilled professions and use the necessary measures to catch fraudsters.   

What do you think? Should people be hired based on their skills/ experience or qualifications? Will hiring people based on their experience/ skills decrease the use of fake academic degrees?


  1. Nice post and great Solution . Thanks!!

  2. Yes (to your question), people should "be hired based on their skills/ experience or qualifications," in addition to their degree (s). Many job post require that, but once we arrived here in Saudi Arabia, we discovered that wasn't the case with regards to many expats from certain countries. We hail from the US.

    For example, the job post that we applied for stated that applicants must have at least two years teaching experience along with the required degree. We submitted proof that we have current/previous teaching expereince within the degree of study that we'd be teaching in.

    After having been here for three + years, we've come to realize that many of our colleagues do not possess the required skills, which put their degrees to question in our minds. Many can't write a simple English sentence, produce a curriculum, prepare an exam, teach without Powerpoint slides, read the text book, and the list goes on. I might add that this includes Saudis, too.

    Many students aren't being taught, they're being taken for a ride. The Saudi government is losing lots of money to such fraud and corruption.

    In the meantime, the authentic degreed professors/teachers are thrown into the barral along with the fakes. Sad :(

    1. Thank you for commenting, Umm Abdullah. Unfortunately, the façade of fake degrees prevails in KSA, and we're just dealing with it. It's a pity that the main victims here are the Saudi government and students.

  3. its obvious that those with proper qualifications will say that having qualification is more important than having experience or in the case of teaching English, being a competent teacher.

    whats the sense in having a degree but you are not a good teacher?
    its therefore more sensible for professions like teaching English, that the person is able to prove himself a competent teacher.

    do you think the children he teaches will benefit more from him having proper qualifications or from being a good, competent teacher?

    1. Anonymous, having "proper qualifications" should entail "being a good, competent teacher."

  4. Where can I report such activities? Our technical manager is handling out "template diplomas" for our coworkers to fill out. They have this "Affiliated with" some university below the college name to add "authenticity". I saw one in actual being filled out in our office. Many employees in our company have fake diplomas.

  5. Hi Jan,

    I am not aware of any online reporting system in Saudi Arabia. I have however learned that fake degrees can be reported to the Ministry of Interior, but I don't know whether anyone has been successful using the contact on their website to report academic fraud. Alternatively, you can discuss with a local and have them call the police if academic fraud is such an issue at your workplace. Informing the police directly might be your best shot here, especially as someone is actively encouraging fraud.

    On a second note, if people appear to be competent at their jobs, I guess you should just let it sleep. Don't be surprised if nothing is done after you report the fraudsters. This is one place where I've noticed that many people do not seem to be bothered by fake degrees.

    (NB: I suppose you live in KSA).

    Good luck!


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