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Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Foreign cheating begins right here at home

A big story over the Labour Day weekend in Canada took aim at international students as the most likely to cheat in their studies. The Globe and Mail cited international students as disproportionately plagiarizing or conniving on exams, and quoted a Toronto legal aid clinic stating more than half of its clients fighting academic offenses are international students.

Not surprising, of the more than 500 comments posted by readers of The Globe and Mail on-line edition, the vast majority labeled the foreigners as cheats who know the difference between right and wrong. For sure there is much here which is an ugly truth. Many assignments at the undergraduate and even graduate level in foreign universities are an exercise in copying sources, and without attribution. And yes it’s true that the majority of international students are coming from nations where leadership and governance are not exactly standard bearers for integrity. So not exactly breaking news that there is a certain amount of clashing cultures as well as truth on trial.

But of course there is a good deal more to this story and it is only hinted at in the last line. “There¹s lots we can do,” said an Academic Integrity Officer with the University of Windsor. “The challenge, though, is time and resources.”

There is shockingly little due diligence by universities everywhere (the Canadian example is the norm). There is almost no checking of academic documents from applicants abroad. There is paltry sophistication and research on the quality of institutions from where international students come. It is also common for universities to not follow through on insuring that students even passed their final high school exams, when final results are only released a few weeks before the start of first year university classes.

Universities cry poor, but many have annual budgets in the hundreds of millions (some in excess of a billion dollars a year). Why not spend to protect the most valuable asset of a university – its credibility.

So while the target of allegations of impropriety is the foreign students, and yes there are cheats in that group, why are universities allowed to get a free pass? Where is their responsibility in all of this?

After all, if one cheats to get in, why won’t they cheat to get out?

Source: “Why many international students get a failing grade in academic integrity”. The Globe and Mail.


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About Mel

Mel has consulted universities, colleges, governmental and non-governmental organizations in the field of international education since 1997. He is co-founder of Higher-Edge, the parent of Overseas, Overwhelmed, and a director of the Canadian University Application Centre. He is a former award-winning CBC reporter and holds a Masters degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

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