University silent over documentation check process

The University of Otago is remaining tight-lipped about what the process was when it came to checking the documentation of the 53 students found to have breached expectations regarding their overseas placements this year.

Three areas overseas where sixth-year medical students spent time on their compulsory three-month placement this year have been blacklisted, after one in five students were found to have broken the rules on their placement.

The university provided very little in the way of answers to questions put to it by the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

Fifteen students have already been found to have falsified records.

The university was "not prepared to discuss" whether that was true of the remaining 38, or if some had filled records honestly.

In answer to questions about who checked records, a university spokeswoman said the process for checking documents "will form part of the inquiry we do, and more information on this will be released in due course".

She also did not say whether it appeared university staff had been negligent, saying that type of question would also be answered by the inquiry, or whether the university had spoken to the other medical students who went on placement this year.

"We are satisfied we have followed a reasonable process to identify whether attendance expectations were met.

"However, people are welcome to provide further information should they wish to," she said.

A version of the handbook available online from 2017-18 said students should spend 11 weeks out of 12 working, or if they chose to do two shorter placements, spend at least five weeks in each place.

A letter sent to the Otago Daily Times alleged the university had assured the students who initially came forward they would not be penalised in terms of graduation.

The spokeswoman said communication between the university and students was confidential.

In response to suggestions from parents the university was "scapegoating" the students, she said the university had a "fair expectation" students would meet attendance requirements.

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