Alleged cheating at Welsh universities on the rise

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Media captionA tearful student - whose identity has been protected - said his £100,000 debt drove him to cheat

Instances of alleged cheating at Welsh universities have risen by almost 50% in the past three years.

Figures obtained by a BBC Radio Wales Freedom of Information request showed from the academic year 2013-14 to 2015-16 the number of allegations went up from 1,370 to 2,044.

A plagiarism expert said universities had been "caught on the back foot" by technology and were battling with a "culture" of copy and pasting.

The NUS said it was a "concern".

A spokesman added: "It's important to remember that the vast majority of students don't engage in academic malpractice at all.

"But those who have done tell us that it's because they're facing an incredible amount of pressure and they don't feel able to seek the support they need."

In the three academic years from 2013-14, 98 students from Wales' eight universities were prohibited from sitting future exams following allegations of collusion or plagiarism.

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Dr Mike Reddy, an independent expert on academic integrity and plagiarism, said: "In some ways we're still assessing in a very 19th Century way, 'write an essay, write a report' and yet people coming up now have never lived without the internet.

"So we do need to reflect those changes [and] embrace those new technologies ourselves.

"I think the universities generally are being caught on the back foot.

"It might be that they come from a culture, background or experience where copy and pasting… is an acceptable thing to do."

He acknowledged lecturers were being put in a difficult position: "It shouldn't just be about policing and penalty because that's a very poor relationship.

"I don't want my students to see me as a potential police officer of judge and jury, I want them to see me as a colleague.

"Universities have got a duty of care to existing students... if a student walks away with a 2:1 it's something they earned, they deserved and not something they got because they copied and pasted."

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University by university from 2013-14

  • University of South Wales (approximately 30,000 students): 1,144 students accused of cheating, two prohibited from sitting future exams
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University (10,500 students): 565 students accused of cheating, 12 prohibited from sitting future exams
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David (11,000 students): 928 students accused of cheating, 47 prohibited from sitting future exams
  • Bangor University (10,000 students): 36 students accused of cheating, four prohibited from sitting future exams
  • Cardiff University (30,000 students): 713 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
  • Swansea University (20,000 students): 1,157 students accused of cheating, 25 prohibited from sitting future exams
  • Wrexham Glyndwr University (6,000 students): 103 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
  • Aberystwyth University: 551 students accused of cheating, 0 prohibited from sitting future exams 
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Media captionDr Mike Reddy says 'knowledge acquisition is instant' these days

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Cheating of any kind is not acceptable and poses a threat to standards at our universities as well as individuals and employers' confidence in the validity of qualifications gained."

Universities in Wales responded to the figures saying they took the problem "extremely seriously", that "robust procedures" were in place and "advances in plagiarism detection software" meant better detection.

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