Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


Novel Recipes



Degree mill

core definition

A degree mill is an organisation or institution that issues degree certification for an appropriate payment, with little or no requirements for the individual to demonstrate full competence at the relevant degree level in the discipline area.

explanatory context

Degree mills are a form of diploma mill and are discussed further under that entry. The following is from the work done jointly by CHEA and UNESCO

analytical review

CHEA/UNESCO (2009) state:

There is not, at present, a single, shared international definition of “degree mills” or “bogus providers.” A number of individual countries have established definitions, however, and have also identified key features of these operations that are obvious wherever mills set up service. Description of these features provides a foundation for challenging mills now and in the future and can, over time, lead to a single international definition of these operations.

We are certain we are dealing with a degree mill when the operation is accurately described as one that “…offers a credential purely in exchange for payment and nothing else.” Money – and only money – is sufficient to obtain a credential at any level and in almost any area.

We are likely to be dealing with a degree mill when the operation is accurately described by some or all of the following. Any one of these descriptors should be cause for concern. “Degree mills”:

• Lack legal authority to operate as higher education institutions or award degrees.

• Require little if any attendance, either on-site or online.

• Require little if any coursework or few if any assignments to obtain a credential.

• Do not provide information about location of incorporation, ownership or governance.

• Provide little or no contact information other than telephone or email address.

• Publish false or exaggerated claims of external quality review (accreditation or quality assurance).

• Issue degrees that are not accepted for licensing or entry into graduate or professional programs in the degree mill's home country.

• List academic staff whose degrees were issued by degree mills or are unable to provide verifiable lists of academic staff and their qualifications.

• Plagiarize material from legitimate institutions for inclusion on degree mill Websites.

• Feature Websites with Internet domain registration that is obscured by a privacy service rather than being publicly accessible. (CHEA/UNESCO, 2009)

associated issues

related areas

See also

diploma mill

accreditation mill


Council for Higher Education Accreditation andUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (CHEA/UNESCO), 2009, Toward Effective Practice: Discouraging Degree Mills in Higher Education. Washington, CHEA/UNESCO available, accessed 8 July 2012, no longer available at that address 21 September 2012.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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