Graduate Prospects, the provider of graduate careers advice, surveyed 1,306 students and graduates in May 2012.
Almost half (43%) said the rise in tuition fees would make graduates more likely to lie on CVs and only a third disagreed outright. Two-thirds (68%) reported that buying a fake degree would be more tempting, less than a quarter disagreed.
While two-thirds of students and graduates recognised that it is illegal to give misinformation on CVs, a third already knew someone who has lied or exaggerated about their qualifications on their CV.
The top four qualification lies graduates are most likely to lie about are grade - give a higher class than they actually achieved (47%); course completion - say they completed a course when they only finished part of it (29%); subject - give a different course subject to suit a job's requirements (13%); qualification - say they have a degree when they don't (11%).
Graduate Prospects carried out the survey as part of its development of the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) online degree verification system.
Funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills via HEFCE and supported by Universities UK, HEDD is being launched to help combat education fraud by making it simpler and quicker for employers to check candidate qualifications. It currently costs universities more than £2m annually to fulfil degree verification requests1 HEDD will make it easier for institutions to monitor, audit and report on enquiries.
Mike Hill, chief executive of Graduate Prospects, said: "Through HEDD trials, we know that people are exaggerating their qualifications, but we are yet to identify what proportion is down to error and what is deliberately deceitful. We carried out this survey to shed some light on the topic.
"We found that half of students and graduates expect employers to check qualifications, but the reality is quite different. As part of a HEDD pilot study, we found that the vast majority of small businesses, and only a fifth of large companies, verify qualifications2. Interestingly, 89% of students and graduates said that by just having the knowledge that that their qualifications were going to be checked would make them less likely to lie. If someone is willing to lie at such an early stage, how can you trust them when they become part of your organisation? It's incredibly important that employers validate who they are recruiting.
"The combination of higher fees and a difficult labour market could well make degree fraud more widespread. The sector needs to come together to raise awareness of these issues, protecting the time and financial investment made by genuine students as well as the reputation of a UK education."
All UK universities and colleges are eligible to join HEDD. It currently includes all 165 publicly funded universities and colleges in the UK, plus the University of Buckingham, which have reported their student outcomes to the Higher Education Statistics Agency from 1990.