Hundreds of students caught cheating

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MORE than 500 Sunderland University students have been caught cheating in the last two years.

Falsifying data, plagiarism and mobile phones in exams are just some of the ways sneaky undergraduates have tried to boost marks, according to figures obtained by the Echo.

There were 232 allegations of malpractice at the university in 2008/09, which rocketed by 41 per cent to 327 in 2009/10.

Of the total over both academic years, 35 were from the schools of arts, design and media, 141 in business and law, 301 in applied sciences, and 82 in education and society.

The data, revealed by a Freedom of Information request, shows that 355 proven infringements were plagiarism – which includes not properly attributing material.

Another 150 were collusion, 37 were simply recorded as cheating, one was falsifying data and another dishonest practice. Fifteen were unproven.

In the vast majority of cases, the students had to repeat the work involved and were given a maximum mark of 40 per cent. In 65, the offender’s mark was reduced.

In the remainder – about 22 – the students had to resubmit their work, failed and did not repeat the work, or were forced to quit the course.

“Cheating is something we will simply not tolerate,” said a spokesman. “We are committed to ensuring that no student has an unfair advantage.

“Due to the introduction of a range of mechanisms for detecting plagiarism in particular, we have seen an increase in allegations of cheating in recent years.

“The reality is that the number of students cheating is not increasing significantly, but that through our committed efforts we are identifying more people.

“Given that we have around 20,000 students, the number of allegations in a year is relatively small.”

At Durham University, 10 students – all from the faculty of Social Sciences and Health – were caught breaking the rules in the last two academic years, for either taking unauthorised material into an exam, or plagiarising summatively assessed work.

Four were expelled, five received a zero exam mark with no resit opportunity, while one was allowed to resubmit work due to “exceptional mitigating circumstances”.

Professor Anthony Forster, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), said: “Durham University takes allegations of cheating extremely seriously, and communicates this policy to all of our students throughout their degree studies.

“The overwhelming majority of our 15,000 students work extremely hard to achieve their grades, and only very few individuals are tempted to cheat.

“All allegations of cheating are fully investigated through our disciplinary procedures.

“If a student is found to have cheated, sanctions can have a significant impact on a student’s academic career as they can include awarding the student a mark of zero for a degree module or, in the worst cases, expulsion from the university.”

Nine City of Sunderland College students were caught cheating over the last two years, with four being disqualified and the rest getting a warning.

Subjects involved included religious studies, English literature, film studies and PE.

The majority of offences related to mobile phones in exams.

The college has previously said staff make a significant effort to ensure students comply with regulations, and that it has thousands of assessments each year, which are moderated, internally verified or externally verified by an awarding body.

There were no formal cases of cheating in formal assessments at East Durham College between 2008 and 2010.

There were six allegations in non-formal assessments, which saw internal verbal warnings issued.