Press backlash against cheating students

Loughlin Sweeney - News Reporter 8 March 2012

The nation was shocked to discover that students at elite universities are just like those anywhere else, as a Daily Mail investigation into academic dishonesty at the top twenty British universities revealed similar incidences of cheating across the board.

The paper lamented an “explosion in student cheating” before reporting an overall reduction in offences, down to 1,665 from 1,849 the previous year.

The top twenty academic institutions, which were the subject of a freedom of information request from the Mail, expelled a total of 100 students last year for “serious academic misconduct,” 44 coming solely from King’s College, London.

Reported numbers of misconduct cases varied widely, from a chart-topping 194 (University of Lancaster) to a solitary one (Cambridge and Bristol Universities). However, what was not reported is that this reflects disciplinary action taken against a mere 1.6% of Lancaster students, a similar proportion to reported cases at universities such as Bath and Sussex, while Cambridge’s single infraction focuses on a mere 0.005% of our student body. Most universities reported a percentage around 1%.

Richard Davis, an English graduate of fellow Russell-group university UCL, reflected that “it would have been easy enough to cheat if one wanted to… one of my exam groups was so huge.”

“It’s surprising that there was only one case , particularly in such a high-stress environment.”

The Chief Proctor of the University, who decides on the course of disciplinary action in the event of plagiarism or exam cheating, may not be jumping for joy at this revelation, however – it may be that similar instances of academic dishonesty are taking place, and they simply haven’t been detected by University authorities.

This disquieting possibility is supported by a 2008 survey of over 1000 Cambridge students, in which 49% of undergraduates admitted to plagiarising, while only 5% said they had faced disciplinary action.

Loughlin Sweeney – News Reporter