Engineers Canada logo

Illegitimate academic credentials

Background

A 2017 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Marketplace investigation uncovered that more than 800 Canadian citizens have purchased illegitimate degrees from unaccredited and/or false institutions—often referred to as diploma mills—in fields related to nursing, education, health, law, and engineering.[1]

A diploma mill sells academic degrees, diplomas, and transcripts to individuals without providing educational experience and without being recognized by an educational accrediting body. Individuals practising in these fields without proper academic credentials place the health, safety, and well-being of Canadians at risk.

The protection of the public is of paramount concern to the engineering regulators in Canada, and Canada’s regulatory framework for engineering is recognized across the world as rigorous. In Canada, “engineer” is a protected term, and can only be used by individuals who have been licensed to practise by Canada’s 12 provincial or territorial engineering regulators.

An individual’s application for engineering licensure is thoroughly reviewed by the provincial or territorial regulator to ensure that the applicant meets the academic, work experience, language, ethics, and good character requirements. The engineering regulators will assess an applicant’s academic credentials based on their education and ensure that:

  • The applicant demonstrates that they possess a valid degree from a legitimate institution. A certain level of content in education is expected from regulators to become licensed.
  • Engineers Canada, through the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), accredits specific programs in Canadian higher educational institutions. Applicants with a CEAB-accredited degree are generally accepted by regulators as meeting or exceeding the minimum academic requirements for licensure. Regardless of whether an applicant’s degree is from an accredited or non-accredited engineering program, the provincial or territorial regulator will ensure that the academic institution listed on their application is valid, that their engineering degree exists, and that the applicant possesses a valid degree from a valid institution. 
  • To confirm engineering education, regulators assign examinations to applicants who hold a non-accredited degree to confirm that a certain level of content in engineering education is possessed by these applicants and meet the requirement for licensure.

Regulators have a strong role in identifying illegitimate qualifications that could threaten public safety and public interest. Their responsibilities go beyond licensing and affect the regulation of practice for professional engineers as well. Each regulator across Canada maintains a directory that allows the public to verify if an individual holds a valid licence to practise engineering in that jurisdiction. Regulators are responsible for ensuring that only licensed individuals use the title “professional engineer”. Regulators have the mandate to investigative and ensure that only individuals who are licensed may use the professional engineering title and practice professional engineering.

Key Points

  • The Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), a standing board of Engineers Canada, accredits undergraduate engineering programs at Canadian higher education institutions.
  • Provincial and territorial engineering regulators set high professional and ethical standards, establish codes of conduct, and administer regulatory processes and standards of practice to assure protection of the public.
  • Engineering regulators in each jurisdiction serve the public’s interest by making sure that only qualified individuals engage in professional engineering services by:
    • licensing qualified individuals based on their ability to practise professional engineering with competence and integrity;
    • examining the validity of credentials from applicants to ensure their degrees are from an accredited engineering program;
    • administering registration practices that are timely, transparent, objective, impartial and fair; and
    • acting against those who are practising engineering but who are not licensed professional engineers.

Next Steps

  • Engineers Canada is currently developing a national position statement on illegitimate academic credentials.
  • The Canadian Engineering Qualifications Board (CEQB) has developed a publicly available national guideline on admission to the practice of engineering in Canada.  The guideline provides an overview of current general admission requirements for applicants and fosters the harmonization of admission practices throughout Canada.
  • The CEQB is also developing a national guideline on the assessment of non-CEAB applicants that high- level guiding principles that overarch the academic credentials assessment for non-CEAB applicants.
  • CEAB, which accredits undergraduate engineering programs that provide the academic requirements for licensure as a professional engineer in Canada, will continue to;
    • ensure Canada’s engineering education system remains amongst the best in the world;
    • foster continual improvement of engineering education provide expertise and efficiency in assessing engineering education on behalf of the provincial and territorial engineering regulatory bodies; and to
    • maintain a list of accredited undergraduate engineering programs in Canada that provincial and territorial regulators may access to ensure that credentials are legitimate.  

Eric Szeto, Nelisha Vellani (2017). “Marketplace: ‘All of us can be harmed’: Investigation reveals hundreds of Canadians have phoney degrees.” Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/diploma-mills-marketplace-fake-degrees-1.4279513.

For more information

For more information contact Joey Taylor, Manager, Public Affairs at Joey.Taylor@engineerscanada.ca