CHEATING in exams at Glasgow’s three universities has skyrocketed in the last year, while plagiarism has fallen significantly, figures reveal.
By Matt Coyle
A TOTAL of 36 students were caught cheating during university examinations at Glasgow University, Strathclyde University and Glasgow Caledonian University, doubling from 18 in 2009-2010.
However the figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the three universities, show that cases of plagiarism in coursework have dropped from 147 to 103 in the last year.
The significant drop follows a major crackdown on cheats which was launched in 2008 following a huge jump in the number of students plagiarising essays and dissertations from the internet.
But the leader of Britain’s students spoke out in defence of undergraduates, insisting the record plagiarism numbers reported by Glasgow’s universities was down to improved detection systems, rather than an increase in cheating by students.
The majority of Scotland’s universities have installed the Turnitin system – a sophisticated software program that scans the internet for passages students have copied into their essays.
At some universities, the number of students caught has at least doubled since the software was introduced to detect cheats.
Liam Burns, the president of National Union of Students (NUS) UK, said: “These figures shouldn’t be seen as a sign of increased cheating, but the inevitable effect of improvements to anti-plagiarism software.
“It’s not as if there are hundreds more students actively trying to cheat.
“The small numbers of students who do resort to plagiarism often do so out of a lack of support and because they are desperate.
“Lecturers must be mindful to this detection software as a way to prevent plagiarism and identify students who need further support, rather than an opportunity to punish people.”
Of the three city universities, Glasgow Caledonian University saw the most significant increase in students cheating, jumping three-fold from nine to 27 cases in the last year. However, the institution can also lay claim to witnessing the largest drop in plagiarism, from 82 instances to just 41 in the last year.
A university spokesman said: “GCU takes cheating and plagiarism very seriously and we have a number of systems in place to monitor and deter such activity.”
A spokesman for Universities Scotland said: “Universities Scotland would urge students not to resort to plagiarism and risk jeopardising their future, and would reassure them that if they’re clever enough to get into university, work hard and do their best they will succeed.”