Belford University

Belford University was an organization that offered online unaccredited degrees for "life experience". The organization maintained a post office box in Humble, Texas, but its certificates were mailed from the United Arab Emirates.[1] Along with many similar websites, it was owned by the Karachi-based company Axact, the main business of which, according to an investigation by The New York Times, is "to take the centuries-old scam of selling fake academic degrees and turn it into an Internet-era scheme on a global scale".[2] In July 2018, Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh, the CEO of Axact was arrested and sentenced to prison for 20 years for his role in perpetuating this scam.[3]

On August 31, 2012, Belford University was shut down and its alleged founder, Salem Kureshi, "ordered to pay $22.7 million in damages".[4] "The judgment established the truth of allegations that Belford High School and Belford University are fake schools that do not actually exist."[5] Court documents from McClusley v. Belford University revealed that Belford University was run by 30-year-old Salem Kureshi from his apartment in Karachi, Pakistan.[6][7] The court found that Kureshi "operates a sophisticated internet ripoff scheme through various websites, which falsely represent the existence of an accredited and legitimate high school, whose diplomas will be widely accepted by employers, professional associations, other schools, colleges and universities".[6] Kureshi has admitted that he created 44 online universities and more than 100 promotional websites. "With an inkjet printer, a Microsoft Word template, and a few cheap websites, Kureshi allegedly became an overnight millionaire."[8]

Accreditation statusEdit

The school was not accredited by any accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Neither of the organizations from which Belford claimed accreditation, the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA), are recognized accreditation associations of higher learning.[9] Without recognized accreditation, Belford's degrees and credits might not be acceptable to employers or other academic institutions, and use of degree titles may be restricted or illegal in some jurisdictions.[10] Jurisdictions that have restricted or made illegal the use of credentials from unaccredited schools include South Korea[11] and the US states of Oregon,[12][13] Michigan,[14] Maine,[15] North Dakota,[13] New Jersey,[13] Washington,[12][16] Nevada,[12][17] Illinois,[12] Indiana[12] and Texas.[18][19] Many other states are also considering restrictions on the use of degrees from unaccredited institutions.[20] It has been listed as a diploma mill by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.[21]

Controversy and criticismEdit

A 2005 investigative report on WHEC-TV in Rochester, New York, characterized Belford as "just one of hundreds of diploma mills easily accessible online".[22]

According to David Linkletter of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Belford "is not a legitimate institute of higher education. No legitimate university offers a complete degree on the basis of one's life experience. I particularly like the 'order now' button on their Web site, which is another clue... To the extent that Belford University is in Texas, it is operating in violation of the Texas Education Code."[1] Furthermore, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has indicated that Belford, Rochville University, as well as the agencies from which they claim accreditation, "appear to be operated by the same people".[1]

In a 2007 article, a Yale Daily News journalist reported that he had applied for a doctorate with what he described as a brief paltry life experience justification, and was approved for his requested degree 12 hours later. He said that the basic price for a doctorate was $549 and entitled the recipient to a transcript showing a 3.0 grade point average. Latin honors could be obtained for an additional fee of $25 and Belford offered to back-date a degree for an additional $75 fee.[23]

Several people with "degrees" from Belford have been severely penalized for attempting to use them to qualify for jobs or promotions. A fire chief was dismissed from his job for his Belford degree in 2006.[24] Similarly, a faculty member at Pensacola State College was dismissed in January 2011 for "present[ing] college administrators with an unaccredited master's degree from an online diploma mill that he obtained while on a paid sabbatical".[25] In 2008, a candidate for sheriff in Mahoning County, Ohio, was removed from the ballot after the Supreme Court of Ohio determined that his associate's degree from Belford could not be used to satisfy the state's requirement that a sheriff have at least two years of post-secondary education.[26]

Dr. Ben Mays, a veterinarian in Clinton, Arkansas, successfully received a diploma accrediting his dog as Dr. Maxwell Sniffingwell, partially in criticism of Arkansas politician John Rhoda, who himself had received a diploma from the university.[27]

Ahmad Tavakoli, a member of Iran's parliament, has made allegations that the vice president of Iran, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, holds a fraudulent Ph.D. degree from Belford University. Tavakoli has published documents on his website purporting to show fraudulent documents created by Rahimi.[28]

Salem Kureshi, the owner of Belford University and Belford High School, agreed to a default judgment against him and his companies in a 2011 class-action lawsuit filed in a U.S. federal court; on June 19, 2012, the court held him in contempt for failing to comply with the terms of the judgment, including $22.7 million payment.[29][30]

Belford High SchoolEdit

Belford High School was another one of Salem Kureshi's "websites, which falsely represented the existence of an accredited and legitimate high school".[6] It was shut down, along with Belford University, on August 31, 2012.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Malisow, Craig (2006-07-20). "First-Degree Fraud". Houston Press. Retrieved 2009-12-31.
  2. ^ Walsh, Declan (17 May 2015). "Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  3. ^ Asad, Malik (July 5, 2018). "Axact CEO, 22 others sentenced to 20 years in jail in fake degrees case". Dawn. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Rochville University Scam. Read reviews, comments, ratings and more". 2012-03-17. Archived from the original on March 17, 2012. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  5. ^ The Googasian Firm, P.C. "Belford Class Action Lawsuit". Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "McCluskey v. Belford University" (PDF). Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  7. ^ Rogalski, Jeremy. "Alleged diploma mill program traced to Pakistan". KHOU 11 News I-Team. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  8. ^ Coalition for Advocates of Online Education. "Kureshi's Extravagant Global Diploma Mill Scam". Online Consumer Fraud Monitoring Advocates of America. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  9. ^ Recognized Accrediting Organizations (as of February, 2006) Archived 2017-01-13 at the Wayback Machine, CHEA
  10. ^ Diploma Mills and Accreditation - Accreditation
  11. ^ Guide to teaching English in Korea Archived April 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b c d e Unaccredited Colleges Archived July 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Oregon Office of Degree Authorization
  13. ^ a b c State mulls online learning Archived January 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine by the Associated Press, Billings Gazette, January 30, 2005.
  14. ^ Colleges and Universities not accredited by CHEA Archived June 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Michigan Education and Children's Services
  15. ^ Accredited and Non-Accredited Colleges and Universities, Maine’s List of Non-Accredited Post-Secondary Schools
  16. ^ Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board Archived January 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Washington Consumer Information
  17. ^ Use of False or Misleading Degrees Nevada statute NRS 394.700
  18. ^ Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas Archived 2017-07-12 at the Wayback Machine, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
  19. ^ Two less doctors in the house - Hebert, Wilson back away from Ph.D.'s issued by ‘diploma mills', by Stephen Palkot, Fort Bend Herald, September 28, 2007.
  20. ^ "Is Oregon the only state that disallows use of unaccredited degrees?" Archived August 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Oregon Office of Degree Authorization.
  21. ^ Ezell, Allen (2009), "Recent developments with degree mills" (PDF), College & University Journal (Vol85 No 2): 40, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-13, retrieved 2012-01-31
  22. ^ "I-Team 10 Investigation: Diploma mills". WHEC-TV. 2005-02-08. Archived from the original on April 26, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  23. ^ "Diploma mills deserve their own rankings" Archived October 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Yale Daily News, April 5, 2007.
  24. ^ Kalil, Mike, "Salem candidate defends degree from diploma mill", New Hampshire Union Leader, March 13, 2006.
  25. ^ Wernowsky, Kris (January 18, 2011). "PSC fires professor". Pensacola News Journal. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  26. ^ The Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio), "Elections board disqualifies Alli’s bid" Archived 2012-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, January 11, 2008, and "Wellington says candidacy issue should have been settled locally" Archived 2016-09-11 at the Wayback Machine, February 15, 2008.
  27. ^ Brantley, Max. "Another proud Belford U. doctor". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2018-03-28.
  28. ^ "How a Belford Chain develops" Archived 2011-07-26 at the Wayback Machine (in Farsi), June 16, 2011.
  29. ^ Jeremy Allen (September 6, 2012). "$22.7 million 'diploma mill' judgment for Flint woman, other plaintiffs, only a small victory, experts say". Michigan Live. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  30. ^ "Judge Orders Diploma-Mill Operator to Pay $22.7-Million in Class-Action Lawsuit", The Chronicle of Higher Education September 7, 2012.