An investigation by The Times has revealed that 50,000 students at British universities have been caught cheating over the past three years.
The most common types of offence were reading a question paper before the start time of the exam, or continuing writing answers after time was up.
The investigation also revealed a vast disparity in the numbers caught cheating between universities, with the highest numbers of cheaters found at Kent and Westminster Universities, which both saw almost 2,000 cases in the 2012-15 period.
The University of Oxford reported 109 cases over the period, whilst the University of Cambridge saw only 5 students convicted.
Many incidents involved students going to the lavatory during examinations. A University of Exeter student was investigated following a “long toilet break where student did not use most convenient toilet”, whilst a similar case at Cambridge saw a student’s mark zeroed after using a phone to access a website during a lavatory break.
Whilst the University of Cambridge did not respond to The Times’ request for comment, a spokesperson for the University of Oxford commented: “The close supervision of students through Oxford’s intensive teaching system makes it particularly difficult for students to cheat by, for example, passing off the work of others as their own.”
She added that the university was “confident its own processes for identifying, investigating and holding students to account for academic misconduct are thorough and rigorous.”
The Times’ investigation also found that non-EU students were more than four times likely to cheat in exams and coursework.
In response to the figures, Jonathan, a doctoral student from outside the EU, commented: “My question is why this happens.
“Is it the demographic of the students, whether they be at Oxford or Cambridge, or from inside or outside of the EU, the values they arrive with, their student skills programs or another factor that needs to be identified?”
The University’s statutes and ordinances state that a charge of misconduct in an examination will see the suspected party brought before the University Court, which may recommend that the vice-chancellor amend class lists, following which the student can appeal to the ‘Septemviri’.
However, “if no appeal is made to the Septemviri, the Vice-Chancellor shall act in accordance with the advice of the Court or, if an appeal is made to the Septemviri, in accordance with the decision of that court.”