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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
'Quarter of students cheating'
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The internet has given students easy access to essays
A quarter of university students have cheated by copying material for essays from the internet, claims a survey.

Researchers, working with an exam plagiarism watchdog, say that very few of these cheating students are caught.

Male students say they are more likely to cheat by copying essays than female students.

Students are now being warned that there is improved software that can identify material copied from the internet.

The Plagiarism Advisory Service, set up two years ago to gather information for universities about cheating, says that it has a new service to check the authenticity of essays.

Cut and paste essays

In particular, it will be able to hunt out chunks of text or whole essays which students been copied from the internet.

There is a major conspiracy of silence over this ... a culture has been created which sends the message that cheating is part and parcel of university life
Professor Frank Furedi, University of Kent


"If they have cut and pasted an essay from five different websites, it will identify the exact sources," said Fiona Duggan of the Plagiarism Advisory Service.

The survey shows that 75% of students say they have never plagiarised other people's work - but 9% say they have cheated in this way once and 16% have cheated more often.

Three-quarters of students had been warned by universities against such copying, but one in five male students thought plagiarism was a "trivial" offence.

The two main reasons for cheating given by students are that they were under too much pressure - and also that some students simply found it easier to cheat than to do the work themselves.

While lifting material from other sources has always been possible - the internet has made the process much easier, tempting students with an instant source of essays and information.

There are online services which sell essays - but the survey found that only a handful of students were using these fee-charging websites.

'Hysteria'

But academics have disputed the scale and motivation behind the problem.

Ranald Macdonald of Sheffield Hallam University, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said that there had been a "hysteria built up" over the problem of plagiarism.

And he said that students sometimes did not have the research skills to recognise what was meant by plagiarism - and that universities had to show how original research should be carried out.

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, rejected this interpretation, saying that students knew when they were cheating - and that universities preferred to "turn a blind eye" rather than confront the problem.

"There is a major conspiracy of silence over this," said Mr Furedi.

"A culture has been created which sends the message that second-hand, unoriginal work and cheating are part and parcel of university life," he said.

"In the 'customer-client culture', degrees are seen as something you pay for rather than something you have to learn. It's the new ethos of university life."


SEE ALSO:
Net closes on essay cheats
10 Jan 03  |  Education
Web checks for student cheating
01 Jun 04  |  Education
Students using the net to cheat
13 Nov 03  |  Education
Essay copying is 'self-teaching'
04 Apr 04  |  Education


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