A diploma mill (also known as a degree mill) is an unaccredited higher education institution that offers illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee. These degrees may claim to give credit for relevant life experience, but should not be confused with legitimate prior learning assessment programs. They may also claim to evaluate work history or require submission of a thesis or dissertation for evaluation to give an appearance of authenticity. Diploma mills are frequently supported by accreditation mills, set up for the purpose of providing an appearance of authenticity. The term may also be used pejoratively to describe an accredited institution with low academic admission standards and a low job placement rate. An individual may or may not be aware that the degree they have obtained is not wholly legitimate. In either case, legal issues can arise if the qualification is used in resumés.
The term “diploma mill” originally denotes an institution providing diplomas on an intensive and profit-making basis, like a factory. More broadly, it describes any institution that offers qualifications which are not accredited and/or are not based on proper academic assessment.
While the terms “degree mill” and “diploma mill” are commonly used interchangeably, within the academic community a distinction is sometimes drawn. A “degree mill” issues diplomas from unaccredited institutions which may be legal in some states but are generally illegitimate, while a “diploma mill” issues counterfeit diplomas bearing the names of real universities.
In the Philippines, Title IV (Crimes Against Public Interest), section V articles 174 and 175 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines criminalize the falsification of medical certificates, certificates of merit or service and the like. Article 174 imposes a penalty on anyone who produces such certificates and article 175 on anyone who knowingly procures and uses such a certificate. Despite this, news and magazine articles appear from time to time reporting businesses operating along Claro M. Recto Avenue in Manila which offer fake documents for sale.
Here’s an infographic via College Choice on how to recognize a diploma mill and how to avoid it: