By Melanie Swan
Cheating cases have fallen at Abu Dhabi University since it introduced its Office of Academic Integrity in 2009.
Offences including plagiarism and collusion have dropped from 334 to 48 at the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain campuses.
The Office of Academic Integrity has succeeded in cutting cheating from 76 cases out of 4,237 students enrolled at the university during 2009-2010, to 19 cases out of 5,184 students enrolled in 2012-2013.
Plagiarism dropped from 196 cases in 2009-2010 to only four cases in the last academic year.
Staff have spent a great deal of time educating students about the importance of academic integrity in relation to the quality of their education and international recognition of their degree through workshops and awareness campaigns.
Officials have made visits to lecture halls and classrooms on both campuses at the beginning of each term to educate newly admitted students and remind returning students of the rules.
They are also informed of the penalties and damages that result from cheating, up to and including sacrificing their degree.
In December 2010, 34 students were expelled from the university for cheating. In 2012-2013, that number was 14.
The university’s chancellor, Dr Nabil Ibrahim, said: “In 2009, the Office of Academic Integrity was established to develop a clear foundation and implement policies and regulations that combat, regulate and respond to academic violations, especially with Abu Dhabi University’s ongoing commitment to improving the quality of academic performance, and apply all aspects of academic integrity as a major part of its strategy.
“With its establishment, the Office of Academic Integrity issued documents and policies that spread awareness and clarified its educational role in combating academic offences and defined the different sanctions that depend on the severity and type of violation, which could in some cases lead to dismissals as the most egregious type of academic integrity violation.”
Dr Ibrahim said the university was striving “to spread awareness and educate our students on the importance of committing to acts that uphold academic integrity”.
“We want them to be honest regardless of whether someone is watching them or not,” he said.
The university’s staff are trained in ways to uncover plagiarism using software.
Dr Ali Azad, director of the Al Ain campus and interim head of the Office of Academic Integrity, said education had been key to the office’s success.
“We all know cheating when we see it, but the six categories that are laid out in the policy of forbidden actions, such as plagiarism, set this out very clearly,” he said.
“Each one is different and we give specific examples, such as taking materials into a closed-book exam or looking at your phone which has stored material on it during an exam.
“This way there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind.”
The university, founded in 2003, was one of the first private universities to achieve any form of global rankings, having now reached the top 500 in the QS Rankings. It is also the capital’s largest private institution.
For the university, such vigilance is vital as it grows, Dr Azad said.
“It’s a global problem but it’s a vital issue for our credibility and reputation.” (The National)