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University of Hyderabad Awards E-Diplomas

To verify a new employee's academic credentials, Indian companies use an RFID interrogator to read an embedded tag encoded with a recipient's name, graduation date, transcript and other identifying data.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 23, 2007In an effort to stem academic fraud, India's University of Hyderabad is awarding its masters and doctoral graduates with paper diplomas embedded with passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags. Each tag has 4 kilobytes of memory and is encoded with the recipient's name, date of graduation, type of degree and entire transcript, as well as a photo of the student's face.

Typically, a college graduate accepting a new job in India must bring in identifying documents such as a driver's license and a college diploma. Some individuals have provided fraudulent diplomas—either a document that is not an actual diploma from the college in question, or a real diploma belonging to someone other than the person accepting the job.

Seyed Hasnain
For that reason, in 2006, the Indian government issued a directive to colleges and universities to guarantee the authenticity and ownership of their diplomas. In most cases, this is being accomplished by adding a photograph to the document, as universities typically take an identification photo of each student first entering the school.

However, says the University of Hyderabad's vice chancellor, Seyed E. Hasnain, the school was looking for a better alternative. For one thing, he explains, the university is renowned for its strong technical programs, particularly in computer science, and was in a position to take a leadership role in a more technical solution. In addition, he adds, because a degree from the University of Hyderabad is so desirable for employers, a guaranteed solution beyond just a picture is that much more important for its diplomas.

Therefore, in June 2007, the university issued 1,700 e-diplomas for all its graduates, provided by Tata Consulting Services (TCS). TCS printed the diplomas, embedded RFID tags complying with the ISO 14443a standard and printed the university logo on each diploma. When the school prepared for that semester's convocation, staff members used an RFID interrogator to write data to each diploma's tag specific to its recipient, including the student's name, degree, transcript and photograph. In addition, the school printed the student's name on the front of the document, with a set of instructions on the back, warning students and employers that to prevent the tag from being damaged, the diploma should not be folded or placed near a high heat source or magnetic field.

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