The Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), the government’s verification service, warned employers that employees who graduated in the 1990s and before could be tempted to exaggerate their achievements as they face pressure from fresh graduates. This pressure is more keenly felt as more than two-thirds of new graduates are obtaining a 2:1 or first class degree.

The body said that of the 20,288 references requested over the past two years, only 16 per cent of enquiries were about qualifications gained by people who graduated in the 1990s, and this percentage fell to just 8 per cent for people who left university before the 1990s.

HEDD said that 8 per cent of enquiries were classified as ‘unverified’ when the CV claims could not be confirmed. Reasons for this include incomplete or incorrect information from the candidate, for example using married names instead of maiden names. However, the reference body said there was also evidence of degree subject changes, grade inflation, fake certificates and bogus institutions.