Online plagiarism crackdown “catches thousands”

Tackling plagiarism

It seems that it is still difficult for newspapers to report intelligent steps to tackle plagiarism in a non-sensationalist way. See for example an earlier post on the Sun’s coverage of cheating by students.

The Scotsman is the latest offender in reporting steps taken by universities to tackle plagiarism:

THE number of Scottish students who are trying to cheat their way to a university degree has soared to unprecedented levels in the past five years, according to new figures.

A survey has shown that thousands of undergraduates have been caught plagiarising other people’s work to pass their degree exams.

But last night the leader of Scotland’s students insisted the record plagiarism numbers reported by many of Scotland’s top universities was down to improved detection systems, rather than an increase in cheating by undergraduates.

Liam Burns, the president of NUS Scotland, said: “These figures shouldn’t be seen as a sign of increased cheating, but the inevitable effect of improvements to anti-plagiarism software.

“It’s not as if there are hundreds more students actively trying to cheat.”

Sensible words from the NUS Scotland President. This isn’t totally straightforward but it really is down to improved detection.

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Simulation software for determining ranking strategy

Tool to improve rankings

Times Higher Education carries an entertaining story about a handy tool designed to help universities determine the best way to improve their league table rankings:

Any doubts that world university rankings are influencing institutions’ strategic thinking are likely to be dispelled by news that academics in Taiwan have developed a tool that predicts the outcome of different management decisions on future ranking position. In a research project for the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council for Taiwan (HEEACT), Han-Lin Li, a professor at the National Chiao Tung University, has developed what he describes as “a rank simulation system for world universities”.

In a presentation on 3 November at a conference in Taipei, titled “International trends in university rankings and their impact on higher education policy”, Professor Li said his system could help a university to “allocate its resources optimally, to improve its rank”. It could even model the impact of institutional mergers on ranking positions, he said. “We need a system to help us know what kind of strategy we can use to get on the [rankings] list,” he told the audience of senior Taiwanese university administrators.

Whilst there is something mildly amusing about this kind of attempt to improve league table positioning, it is also slightly disturbing to think that resource allocation decisions could be determined in this way. Arguably though it was just a matter of time before someone developed such a tool. It will be interesting to see if there is a market for it.