A number of undergraduate students are cheating because university teaching has become formulaic, the Higher Education ombudsman has said.
The UK is the second most popular destination for foreign students
Baroness Deech said that the expansion of higher education meant too many degrees now involved ticking boxes and absorbing hand-outs.
She said the emphasis on original work and creative thought was being lost.
Baroness Deech said students now think they have to "copy down accurately something that is already on screen".
BBC education correspondent Sue Littlemore said it is estimated that 10% of university work from across the UK is plagiarised and that most cheating goes undetected or ignored.
Baroness Deech is the official adjudicator for student complaints in England and Wales.
She told the BBC: "Everything is processed. Instead of students sitting and reading and listening and writing their own material, everything is presented visually.
"And they get to think that that is what they've got to do, just make sure they copy down accurately something that is already on screen somewhere."
But Bill Rammell, Higher Education Minister, insisted that undergraduate students were getting a good education.
"I do think we have very robust quality assurance mechanisms in place," he said.
"Britain would not be the second highest destination for overseas students in the world, if we had a poor quality system of higher education."