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2 arrested in University of Hong Kong admissions fraud scandal; up to 100 students possibly implicated

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Hong Kong police have made two arrests as they investigate a widening admissions scandal at one of the city’s top universities that has already implicated around 30 postgraduate students, and could potentially involve as many as 100.

The case centres on the use of fraudulent qualifications to secure places at the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) business school. It caught the public eye in late May when the school announced it had made a police report after conducting an international investigation.

More than 30 master’s students, all Chinese, have been found to have used forged academic qualifications to gain admission, HKU Business School dean Cai Hongbin told Caixin Global on Thursday (Jul 5) as reported by Chinese news outlet China Daily. He added that as many as 100 students may be involved.

The two people arrested are mainland Chinese women, aged 24 and 34, according to Hong Kong police as reported by the South China Morning Post. They held two-way permits, a travel document issued by mainland authorities for visiting Hong Kong, and were arrested when crossing the border.

According to SCMP, the younger woman was nabbed on Jun 22 and the other on Wednesday (Jul 3). The former has been charged with using forged documents while the latter is still being detained for investigation.

Hong Kong police did not specify whether they are students at HKU Business School, or if they’re part of the agencies that allegedly helped forge documents.

According to the China Daily report, Prof Cai said HKU Business School was alerted to online agencies claiming they could guarantee admission to the “highly selective” programme for up to 500,000 yuan (US$68,803). HKU Business School is ranked 35th globally in the QS Global MBA Rankings 2024.

These intermediaries are said to employ a range of tactics, including forging transcripts, certificates, envelopes, and seals from other academic institutions to make the documents appear genuine, the report stated.

As part of the probe in May, the business school required all current master’s students to resubmit their undergraduate credentials, transcripts, and other materials, reported China Daily.

Only fake documents ostensibly awarded by overseas universities have been discovered so far, said Prof Cai. The admission papers of graduates from Hong Kong and Chinese mainland universities have all been deemed authentic.

Students found to have used forged qualifications have been asked to “actively facilitate the probe”, and those who engaged agencies to fake qualifications have been asked to provide details to the police, Prof Cai added.

The school said some agencies would defraud both the universities and their clients, SCMP reported. In one case, an HKU applicant – an American university graduate – who hired an agency to help with his admission expected the firm to only polish the application or draft admission statements.

Instead, the agency forged transcripts and a graduation certificate from a top US university and sent them to HKU from the US, said the school.

“The school hopes to summarise its experience in this investigation and publicise the means of these ‘illegal agencies’ in forging documents so other universities in Hong Kong can plug the loopholes while admitting students.”

Currently, HKU is working with the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) to accredit students who applied for its programmes using overseas qualifications, SCMP reported.

CSCSE is a public institution affiliated with China’s education ministry. It specialises in offering professional services for international scholarly exchanges, including Chinese students and scholars studying abroad.

Source: CNA/Agencies/lk(ws)

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