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.

University news: David Cameron backs a website

“Tory leaders last night vowed to help more teens get to university”

Important news on more public information for students appearing first in the increasingly education-focused and university-oriented organ that is The Sun. (See earlier post for Sun coverage of academic offences.)

David Cameron kicked off the campaign by backing the newly launched website, Britain’s first one-stop shop that tells kids what the best courses are for their ideal jobs. He said: “There are a lot of misconceptions about what’s a good university and a good course. This is a really great tool for finding out what courses actually work and what are the best routes to a rewarding career. “It gives people vital information in an accessible way and I’m sure it will make a big difference.”

It gives you date on average pay in different careers. It tells you the employment, unemployment and drop-out rates for each subject across universities. Not entirely clear where the breakthrough is here or what difference will be made but they do seem pretty confident that this is special.

Tory shadow universities secretary David Willetts added: “If we are in government after the next election, we will do everything possible to get all the information young people need out to them. “There is no defence for universities and quangos keeping statistics secret that students need when they decide the best course and university for them. “We back this fantastic new website and it’s great that The Sun is backing it too.”

This information is not kept secret. All of it is in the public domain and it really can’t be said that universities try to prevent students getting hold of such data to stop them making informed decisions. It really isn’t clear that young people suffer from an information deficit. And given that there is a constraint on places, all the information provision in the world isn’t going to get more students into university.

The Sun investigates academic offences

The Sun seems to have a new found interest in academic offences. It says that “160 exam cheats were booted out of university last year”.

According to the respected journal:

DIMWITS with notes scrawled on wrists and arms were among 160 exam cheats booted out of university last year. The brainless old wheeze of writing answers on body parts continued to beat hi-tech scams such as accessing the internet with mobile phones, The Sun can reveal.

We submitted a Freedom of Information request to discover the most popular ways of cheating – and which campuses had the most culprits. Worst was Teesside University in Middlesbrough – where 17 students were caught. Middlesex University expelled 15, followed by Kingston (10), Sheffield (7) and University College London (6).

Scams were: Notes written on SKIN, including palms and legs; BUYING coursework such as essays off the internet; STEALING – like the Chester University student who swiped another’s memory stick and passed work off as theirs. Faking ILLNESS to have poor results upgraded; Nipping to the LOO after hiding notes there; PLAGIARISING work on the web and HIDING notes in pencil cases and dictionaries; STAND-INS taking the exam; PRETENDING a bereavement affected performance – and lastly using a MOBILE.

Great to see tabloids interested in this particular aspect of higher education.