Magazine article Times Higher Education

Cheats? Us? Disputes Quadruple - and That's Just 'Tip of the Iceberg'

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Cheats? Us? Disputes Quadruple - and That's Just 'Tip of the Iceberg'

Article excerpt

Complaints over penalties a growing concern for the sector, says OIA. Jack Grove reports.

The number of students challenging punishments handed out for cheating and plagiarism has quadrupled in just three years.

Eighty-two students registered complaints over the handling of academic- misconduct charges resolved by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in 2011 - up from just 20 cases in 2008, according to the ombudsman's annual report, published on 14 June. These cases comprised 6 per cent of the 1,443 complaints closed in 2011.

Of the total complaints made, 5 per cent were upheld and 11 per cent were partially upheld. Most concerned academic grades, assessments and appeals, with 10 per cent relating to alleged breaches of contract between universities and students. The OIA did not disclose the proportion of misconduct complaints upheld.

Protests over the penalties imposed for cheating, connected largely to easy access to essays bought on the internet, were a growing concern, said Rob Behrens, the independent adjudicator. "We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg - universities are dealing with many times the amount we see," he said.

Institutions needed to give clearer advice to students on the dangers of copying others' work and ensure they had fair, consistent procedures for breaches of academic integrity, he said.

"Several of our complainants admitted they behaved inappropriately, but felt the punishment was excessive," he said. "For others, they want to use whatever means are available to get the punishment overturned. …

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