Last week, the University of NSW’s (UNSW) 2019 Student Conduct and Complaints Report, obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald, revealed a rise in student misconduct cases, noting a “consistent and continuing upward trend” in student misconduct allegations since 2014.
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the UNSW said the overall proportion of the student population accused of misconduct was low, at 1.8% in 2019.
“While students globally are finding more ways to cheat, UNSW is world leading in its use of sophisticated tools and techniques to prevent and detect cheating,” the spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald last Tuesday.
So, how big an issue is this for Australian universities generally?
According to Anna Borek, Academic Partnerships Manager of Higher Education at Turnitin, academic misconduct continues to be one of the most significant challenges facing universities.
“Despite changes in assessment design and awareness campaigns, contract cheating services continue to be visible and educators are often unable to keep pace with the wider ways in which students can commit academic misconduct,” Borek said.
“While the situation is difficult and deeply complex, as a sector it is critical that we continue to build a strong culture around academic integrity to ensure we maintain our high academic standards and protect the reputation of Australia’s education system”.
Borek said educators often struggle to tackle the issue of contract cheating because it is hard to detect and harder to prove.
“Increasing awareness of the problem, training markers to identify red flags and using technology to compare assignments to students’ previous work is proven to increase detection rates of contract cheating and support academic misconduct investigations,” she said.
Borek said the upward trend in allegations of student misconduct at the UNSW has been attributed to increased detection, which she said was “encouraging”.
“As a sector, we need to continue to work together to help instructors and students understand what contract cheating is and why it is wrong, and the real and present public risk this behaviour constitutes for everyone,” she said.