Unrecognised higher education institutions are generally those that operate without a formal accreditation/authorisation/recognition status given by an official authority of a certain country.
Degrees or other qualifications from unaccredited institutions may not be accepted for access to further study or for employment purposes in the public or private sector. Some unaccredited institutions may be permitted to operate in the education market of a specific country – delivering programmes, enrolling students granting qualifications, but the qualifications do not form part of the recognised education system.
Qualifications made by an unrecognised institution in a particular country are generally not entitled to recognition in other countries. Importantly. this does not mean that all such institutions pursue fraudulent ends.
There is a distinct group of organisations, that operate as Diploma Mills. Such organisations that claim
to be recognised awarding bodies, offer short duration programmes leading to qualifications without examination or assessment, and charge considerable sums of money for access and/or issuing the award.
The range of organisations working in this area is wide and varied; some organisations operate as functioning institutions granting qualifications that are not recognised nationally or internationally whereas other organisations duplicate or falsify qualification parchments.
With rare exceptions, every country regulates the recognition of educational institutions and the recognition of qualifications, and identified the characteristics and minimum quality requirements that these institutions must meet.
The majority of non-recognised institutions on the market define themselves as belonging to those national systems where the legal value of the qualification is absent or where there are systems of accreditation of the institutions joined to recognised private agencies at a governmental level and not through an award resulting from a legislative measure in the strict sense.
It is possible to find official lists of recognised/accredited higher education institutions on the Recognised Higher Education Institutions section, referenced on respective country pages on the right column.
Council of Europe Alert
UNESCO Alert - Bogus institutions
US Department of Education - Diploma Mills and Accreditation
NARIC Italia: Cimea against the mills - How to spot and counter diploma mills (November 2010)
Council for Higher Education Accreditation (USA) - Important questions about accreditation, degree mills and accreditation mills
Centre for information on Diploma Mills