Students buying assignments, forging signatures, and using
phones in exams were among more than 540 cases of cheating
dealt with by universities last year.
The most serious cases saw students expelled or suspended
from their study, fined up to $600 or given a zero mark.
New figures show remarkable differences between the number of
cheats being caught at different universities.
The University of Waikato - one of the country's smallest in
student numbers - had 254 academic misconduct cases last
The University of Canterbury had just 17 cases - suggesting
differences in what institutions consider cheating, and how
they target and record it.
Asked about its high numbers, a University of Waikato
spokeswoman said all complaints were dealt with through a
single discipline committee, "ensuring one central process
and therefore robust record-keeping".
A spokesman from the University of Canterbury said its low
number of cases reflected vigilance by staff and tough
penalties including fines.
Universities have been put on notice about academic
dishonesty since reports exposed companies apparently using
"ghost writers" to complete assignments for paying students.
A High Court judgment last month froze assets of an Auckland
couple linked to one such company, and the New Zealand
Qualifications Authority has produced advice on how to stop
Figures released to the Weekend Herald show there were four
confirmed cases of students purchasing assignments at Massey
University last year.
A Massey spokesman said:"The lecturer looked at the
electronic files, spoke to the students and established they
had all commissioned a particular business to complete
individual assessment problems for them.
"The business provides services for customers via the
internet. The business is a legitimate business and not set
up to provide assignments to order, or make profits by
enabling students to cheat."
Massey did not believe students purchasing assignments was a
significant problem, he said.
"It is treated seriously and in this case the students were
found to have committed a level three breach of academic
integrity [the most serious level] and could have been
excluded but chose to withdraw once that was put to them."
AUT said it identified two instances last year where students
had bought assignments. Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury,
Lincoln and Victoria Universities all said they had no such
Plagiarism - using others' work without attribution -
accounted for most misconduct cases.
One University of Auckland student was fined $600 and
received no mark after helping a friend complete a written
test by swapping test papers, and a PhD student was expelled
after their thesis proposal was found to be plagiarised.
Another student made up references, and a University of Otago
student received a warning after their assignment mirrored
Universities use content-matching software such as Turnitin.
While these can help identify plagiarism from public sources,
they cannot flag plagiarism from other students or cheating
such as purchasing "ghostwritten" assignments.
According to NZQA, signs of ghostwriting can include breadth
of research, writing style, use of terms not specifically
related to the topic, spelling or terminology not usually
used in New Zealand, and referencing or essay construction
the student has not previously used.
Other students should be encouraged to act as
"whistleblowers", NZQA advises.
Emails to senior managers can provide a confidential channel
for student complaints about suspected dishonesty.