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This week the University of Otago announced 53 medical students, or 21.5% of the 2019 graduating year, would have their qualifications withheld.
They will face a range of consequences including repaying some grant funding and compensating for unworked time with community service or research.
This came after an investigation by the university of medical trainee interns failing to meet elective placement attendance expectations and in some cases falsifying attendance documents.
The family of one student, who requested anonymity, said this year's interns were ''scapegoated''.
Over many years a precedent for presuming some leeway in placement attendance was developed by former students, one family member said.
''It was not the culture to not go to any placements ... it's work hard and take a little bit of a break.''
Another family member said the students this year had ''no idea whatsoever this was going to fall down on them''.
Part of the blame lay with the medical school, which could have notified the students when it began investigating the issue earlier in the year that strict attendance was required, family members said.
''It seems to us the medical school was derelict in its duties and responsibilities not to have been aware over many years that students felt they had some leeway re their elective times.
''It is also likely that at least some of the senior medical staff at the medical school had been aware of this practice.''
The offending of the student in their family was on the ''lighter side'', they said.
''Obviously the students have to be held accountable for their actions, but it's been difficult for us to see how hard this degree has been, the struggle, and how passionate these students are about what they do, and how hard they work, and have them portrayed in the media as people who don't have integrity.''
The family called for clarity from the university as to what would happen next as there was uncertainty around when the students could be registered or start work.
The university did not directly respond to the family's comments yesterday, but reiterated its statement on the matter.
This included Vice-Chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne announcing a ''broad and detailed'' inquiry investigating how the misconduct occurred and how it could be prevented in future.
It also contained an acknowledgement by Otago Medical School dean Prof Barry Taylor that the school's systems relating to the elective placements allowed ''the dishonesty to occur'' and that it was reviewing the programme.