Student cheats are caught out

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Nearly 140 university students in Lancaster were caught cheating over the last five years.

Figures obtained following Freedom of Information Requests revealed that 146 students at the University of Cumbria’s (UCUM)Lancaster campus and 26 students at Lancaster University have been investigated on suspicion of cheating since April 2008.

At UCUM 61 per cent (89 students) of the students facing investigations were women, while the same number of men and women were investigated at Lancaster.

Of those investigated at both universities, 136 undergraduate and postgraduate students were found guilty – 116 at UCUM (nearly 2.5 per cent of the Lancaster campus’s 4,700 students) and 20 at Lancaster (almost 0.17 per cent of its 12,000 students).

At UCUM, the most common type of malpractice related to coursework, with plagiarism accounting for 106 of the cases investigated, while 33 students were suspected of collusion.

Only one student was investgated for cheating in an exam, in stark contrast to the situation at Lancaster, where all cases investigated related to unauthorised materials being discovered by exam invigilators. Most of those students received a mark of zero, while others received a lower classification or had to re-sit the exam.

Of the guilty UCUM students 57 were deemed to have failed that specific element of their course or the module, but were given one re-assessment opportunity.

Another 20 failed the specific element or module and were denied an opportunity of reassessment, while four students had their marks reduced and seven were booted out of the university.

Nineteen received no penalty, either due to mitigating circumstances or ignorance of the fact they were doing anything wrong.

A UCUM spokeswoman said it invigilated exams closely and delivered awareness campaigns on academic rules and behaviour.

She added: “The university of Cumbria has clear expectations of original work from its students and takes comprehensive steps to ensure the authenticity of submissions and to prevent incidences of cheating and plagiarism.

“Students are made clearly aware of the consequences of such behaviour, and informed of the measures that they can take to avoid inadvertent activity.”

A Lancaster University spokeswoman said: “The university has a very high academic reputation and takes any case of student cheating very seriously.

“The majority of students work hard for their degrees and can be assured that the university will always take appropriate action to ensure that its high standards are maintained.

“Lancaster has a low level of serious plagiarism and seeks to educate students, point out bad practice and help them to understand how to cite and reference other people’s work properly, to prevent plagiarism arising in the first place.”