My question is based on the example of a startup. I have come across a "company" which claims to be providing services in Quantum Computing. However, various features of this company sound fishy to me and even unethical and illegal in academia. The company is called "Bikash's Quantum" which claims to be charging money from students in exchange of promise for 'internship'. And then spread this idea for earning more money by 'referring' to more students and presenting it as a money earning scheme (without any academic basis). According to my interpretation it is precisely the pyramid scheme in the disguise of an "internship" as the scheme asks a student to refer to this internship scheme to about 10 students each day where each new student will be charged 500 INR directly paid to this startup.

Next is the idea of awarding people with degree and making them pay for it. Even for a Ph.D. There is no idea of a scholarship or a stipend, rather on top of that the chosen candidate has to pay the fee. The question I want to ask here is more fundamental. The founder is in midst of his Ph.D. (see here & here). On top of this there is NO clue to what the company is affiliated with, in order to provide a legal degree (for BS, MS and a Ph.D.). And the payment options are quickly given even by a UPI address via the GooglePay app into a personal account. The founder is also heavily self-cited.

Is it legal to operate like this in academia? To award degree (not even clear from what affiliation)? Can a startup like this offer any desired 'degree' to anyone in exchange of money?

The main task done by this "company" is making the quantum circuits for various recent PRAs and PRL papers and try to publish them in Springer QIP journal. First and second year undergraduates are hired for this in exchange of money and they design these quantum circuits in IBM Quantum Experience environment.

(This admission information from the website was removed recently after a social media post was made against this company, and now is protected by a login. I had screenshots in my previous edits but was told to take them down, so I obeyed.)

  • 2
    Could you please reformulate your question without the unnecessary details about the service? All those details can be interpreted as a veiled form of spam, and are really not necessary to ask a general question best suited for this site. – Massimo Ortolano Jul 11 '20 at 17:15
  • 2
    @MassimoOrtolano I was actually going to clean it up (remove the screenshots & only keep the essential parts) in response to one of the comments, but I'm still 323 points away from being able to edit questions easily. For something like this it's probably better for someone with enough rep to edit in real-time, to do it. If I do it, who knows how long it will take for 2 peer reviews, & if it takes 5 hours, there might be 3 other edits that people tried to do while my edit was waiting for approval, & then my edit might have to be re-edited. If you're online to reject/approve my edits I'll try. – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 17:47
  • 1
    @MassimoOrtolano The user came back and removed all the unnecessary details about the service, and it comes across a lot less like spam. My edit fixed some of the formatting since the user is a "New contributor" and might not have known how to do that. – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 20:51
  • 2
    @MassimoOrtolano kindly reopen the question, it has been edited 12+ hrs ago. – Siddhant Singh Jul 12 '20 at 10:07
  • Even with the edits, this question is still about assessing a specific service, which is off topic. – Massimo Ortolano Jul 13 '20 at 8:31

The company that you say is offering PhD degrees to people without being an accredited university, is in India. According to India's Department of Education, regarding institutions without accreditation or an Act of Parliament:

""It is emphasized that these fake institutions have no legal entity to call themselves as University/Vishwvidyalaya and to award ‘degrees’ which are not treated as valid for academic/employment purposes."

So it is likely illegal for this company called "Bikash's Quantum" to be advertising that they can award a PhD to people that pay 200 USD/month to a PhD student named Bikash who is himself a PhD student that is basically asking for research assistants to carry out the research for his PhD.

Let me now comment on this part of the "partnership policy":

"A monthly compensation of 10000 INR or 200 USD has to be paid to BQ within the 7th day of Every English calendar month."

200 USD/month is also a lot of money in India. Many people will say that it's unethical to get people to pay you 200 USD/month do to research for you. I don't imagine this type of thing working in USA, Canada, or most of Europe, because most people are under the impression that research assistant work is either voluntary or paid, but never the other way around where the ressearch assistant pays the supervisor.

Whether or not what this guy is doing is legal in India, is something that might be a very good question to ask, and this is one place you can start.

  • @cag51 my sentence included the word "usually". And about that Wikipedia list of unaccredited universities, many don't exist anymore, such as Trump University which closed in 2010 (I believe they were sued many times for mis-portraying themselves). – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 0:19
  • 1
    @BryanKrause I don't think so in this case, because the user could easily have replied to my comment but they didn't. My first paragraph is not "largely" incorrect as far as I know, and if it is, they could have said the reason why. Furthermore, can you please remove your comment which says "This post has multiple downvotes" ? I have not flagged it because I'm sure you can remove it yourself now that the tagged user has seen it, and apart from notifying the tagged user that there's many downvotes, the rest is not really something to be advertising publicly (people with enough rep can see it) – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 3:10
  • 1
    "In Australia, it is a criminal offence to use the term "university" or to purport to offer university degrees (Bachelors, Masters, Doctors) without government authorization." this is just the first one in alphabetical order from here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 4:11
  • 1
    "According to the India Department of Education, regarding institutions without accreditation or an Act of Parliament, "It is emphasized that these fake institutions have no legal entity to call themselves as University/Vishwvidyalaya and to award ‘degrees’ which are not treated as valid for academic/employment purposes." : this is the one relevant to the country that OP is specifically talking about in his question. – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 4:12
  • 1
    " It is illegal under the Universities Act (1997) for any body offering higher education services to use the term "university" without the permission of the Minister for Education and Science." this is the next one in the alphabetically ordered list. – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 4:13

This sounds like a straight up pyramid scheme. It may or may not be "legal" in your country but it's not a legitimate company. Run away from this.

  • 3
    What legal step can be taken against this? – Siddhant Singh Jul 10 '20 at 21:11
  • 2
    law.stackexchange.com – user1271772 Jul 10 '20 at 21:12
  • 3
    @SiddhantSingh Research which government authorities oversee academic institutions, and submit either a report, complaint or tip-off (depending on what option is available at their site). Most government departments will have a way to send a letter or email, or submit a form. – SSight3 Jul 11 '20 at 8:30
  • 2
    @SiddhantSingh there are in India, so nothing. The government there is well aware of hundreds of such scams running. Corruption is rife. – Myridium Jul 11 '20 at 12:16
  • @Myridium I think you meant to send that to SSight3, not to SiddhantSingh. – user1271772 Jul 11 '20 at 16:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.