Thousands of Yorkshire students caught cheating in exams and coursework

A graduation ceremony. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
A graduation ceremony. Chris Radburn/PA Wire
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More than 8,000 Yorkshire students have been caught cheating in exams and coursework over the last five years, new figures show, as technological devices like smartwatches and online “essay mills” make it easier than ever.

A number of universities in the region have seen an increase in the number of students cheating in exams and coursework, with figures as high as 600 a year at some institutions. And as exam season comes to a close, figures show mobile phones and plagiarism are among the main ways for students to cheat.

Now some universities, including Sheffield Hallam, have revealed they are cracking down on the problem, with new measures being put in place to tackle the use of bluetooth headsets and hidden wires in exams, alongside a text-matching service to detect online plagiarism.

The figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post under the freedom of information act show that cheating is most prevalent in coursework - since 2012 a total of 7,673 students in Yorkshire were caught-out - with most universities listing plagiarism as the main factor. The figures were lower when it came to exams - 403 cheated - where mobile phones caused the most problems, with devices ringing in exams and students caught using them or having them in their possession.

A spokesperson for vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK, said: “Universities take plagiarism and cheating extremely seriously. Submitting work written by someone else is cheating and devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve their degrees. Universities have severe penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own.

“Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution’s disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university.

“With information now so readily available online, it has become increasingly important to engage with students from day-one to underline the implications of cheating and how it can be avoided.

“University support services are also there to help vulnerable students struggling with anxiety and stress around coursework and deadlines. The higher education sector has already done a lot of work in this area and universities have become more experienced in detecting and dealing with such forms of cheating.”

It comes as the Government continues to crack down on the use of essay mills- which custom-write work for students for payment - by proposing tough penalties on those who use them.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, has asked student bodies and institutions to draw up guidance to help combat “contract plagiarism”, where tens of thousands of students are believed to be buying essays for hundreds of pounds a time.

The vice president of the National Union of Students (higher education) Sorana Vieru said: “It’s important to remember that the vast majority of students don’t engage in academic malpractice at all.”