50,000 Students Caught Cheating
The British university system has witnessed new highs in plagiarism and cheating based on an investigation of 129 universities by The Times. New figures claim that in the past three years, almost 50,000 students have been caught cheating at British universities.
According to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, within this ‘plagiarism epidemic’ we see a disproportionate amount of the cheating students coming from outside of the EU. Out of the 70 universities that provided data on the nationality of their cheating students, foreign students made up 35 per cent of all cheating cases, despite only accounting for 12 per cent of the student body. In Queen Mary University of London, for example, 75 per cent of postgraduates found plagiarising were from abroad.
Top of the leaderboard for cheating students was the University of Kent which reported cases of 1,947 students caught cheating between 2012 and 2015. Second place was the University of Westminster with 1,933 students recorded cheating.
The majority of cheating at universities involves plagiarising essays and coursework or cheating in exams. In some cases, however, students even arrange for someone other than themselves to sit the exam.
A more recent development has been the rise of online essay-writing companies. Turning assessments into a business for writers and academics, students pay hundreds of pounds to receive bespoke essay-writing services for projects as large as dissertations. Reports show that type-2 cheating (using an online service) is becoming increasingly popular. Amble around the major universities in London and inside phone boxes there you’ll find advertisements for essay, exam, and dissertation support.
Although these websites boast ‘plagiarism free’ support, through software systems such as Turnitin, universities are able to detect plagiarism more easily by comparing student’s work against an online database of already published academic material.
Nevertheless, it is no surprise that in the current education system the ‘teaching to the test’ climate of endless examinations is having drastic effects on the mental health of students. It could be argued that the recent increase in cheating is attributable to the government’s insistent emphasis on examinations. Therefore, the deeper issues behind such figures need to be properly explored to understand the whole picture.
By Nina Harris