Hiding notes in the toilet during an exam, inappropriate use of an iPhone and one student trying to bribe their lecturer into giving them a pass were all cheating cases picked up by universities last year.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show cheating and plagiarism incidents have dropped at six of the eight universities over the past year, with the exception of Waikato University. Massey only started recording the numbers in the last year. In 2011, 215 Waikato students were found to have cheated on exams or assignments. That was up from 158 cases in 2010, and 137 in 2009.
A Waikato University spokeswoman said students working in groups were to blame for the increase.
“The increase in plagiarism cases in 2010 and 2011 is due to groups of students being disciplined for collaborating on assessed material.” Steps were being taken to address the issue, including ensuring students learned appropriate ways to study together while still submitting their own independent work, she said.
All universities saw their cheating cases take a leap in 2010 from the year before. But with the exception of Waikato, which has a student population of about 13,000, all universities brought their numbers back down again in 2011. Auckland University, New Zealand’s largest with more than 39,000 students, recorded the lowest number with just 15 cases of plagiarism or cheating.
Otago, which has about 19,500 full-time students, had 61 cases. Massey University, which has about 36,000 students across three campuses, did not record figures up until 2011. A spokeswoman said their policy did not require them to, but a policy review resulted in the university reporting 17 cases last year.
International v domestic cases
An Ombudsman’s ruling in 2009 said universities had to provide a breakdown of cases committed by international and domestic students. Lincoln, Canterbury, Waikato and Otago Universities provided those figures, but the rest did not. At two of the universities where it was recorded, cases of cheating and plagiarism among international students outranked those committed by domestic students last year.
Waikato uncovered 111 international students being dishonest in their work compared to 104 domestic students, while Lincoln recorded just 13 cases involving international students, against 11 domestic cases. At Otago, domestic cheaters outnumbered internationals 47 to 14, and at Canterbury 14 to seven. Lincoln University Vice-Chancellor Andrew West said those figures needed to be put into perspective, as international students often faced more pressures.
“The university’s paramount concern is the safety and wellbeing of our students, and the university remains concerned these figures will be used as a basis for negative comment to be made about international students. “International students face many challenges in finding new countries to be welcoming and supportive – New Zealand is no different.”
It was also not known what proportion of students at each university were international students.
At all universities, cases of students handing in work that had not been correctly referenced, copying from others, or taking notes into closed-book exams made up the majority of cases. Some of the more interesting cases however included a student who tried to “buy a pass” from their lecturer at Otago University. The amount offered was not revealed.
That student was given a verbal reprimand, while a masters student who was found to have plagiarised large portions of their thesis wasn’t so lucky. They received a fail for their thesis and it was also decided they would not be allowed to re-submit the work or anything derived from it.
At Waikato last year, 70 students had their assignments disallowed, 211 had their marks reduced and one person was excluded from the university for various types of dishonesty offences. Massey caught five people cheating in exams last year, as well five people who copied another student’s work and seven who plagiarised from websites and books.
One student at Auckland University received a $250 fine and failed a paper for using their iPhone to access websites during an exam, while two others, in 2010, received fail marks for accessing notes while on a toilet break from an external exam. Lincoln and Victoria Universities refused to provide breakdowns of the types of cheating that occurred.
Cheating and plagiarism cases – Annual Breakdown
Victoria University: 55 59 38
Otago: 36 85 61
Canterbury: 22 30 21
Auckland: 15 27 15
Waikato: 137 158 215
AUT: 74 93 50
Lincoln: 33 154 106
Massey: – – 17