When I taught a "pre-session" course I was surprised at the levels of plagiarism. Do universities even want to stamp it out?by An Anonymous Academic / October 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
Vice-chancellors’ pay became a hot topic over the summer period and has been linked to the rising cost of tuition fees. Vice-chancellors have defended their salaries by pointing out that they manage huge budgets and are paid less than premier league footballers and bankers. These comments did little to defuse the situation, serving merely to underline the fact that universities are now businesses, with astute financial managers at the helm. The monetisation of higher education started many years ago. But nowhere is it more blatant than in the way we treat our overseas students.
I have recently been employed by a reputable university, teaching on a pre-sessional course—that is to say, a course in English aimed at students for whom English is an additional language. Many of these students then “progressed,” regardless of their actual progress, to taught Masters programmes in Management, Business and Finance, Human Resources Management or International Business.
Charming though these—mainly Chinese—students were, they didn’t exude a passion for their chosen discipline; rather, they were grimly intent on gaining the piece of paper that would give them the edge in the jobs market. Given that some of the students struggled to string more than a few words together in English, you would be forgiven for thinking that they’d be facing an uphill—or even a losing—battle.
But that’s where you’d be wrong, as I soon found out. For it is in everyone’s interests—not least the universities whose fees for foreign students are not inconsiderable—for these students to return to their countries of origin armed with their cherished awards and their beefed-up CVs. There are various means available to students that will enable even the weakest among them to succeed. Some of the help that is available is legitimate. In-sessional support would be one such example. But there are other strategies employed by students that amount to nothing less than outright cheating.
When submitting an assignment, the low-ability student will often use his or her common sense and use not only someone else’s ideas, but their forms of expression as well. This is plagiarism, of course. It is frowned on in academia—or, to be more truthful, academia makes a show of frowning on it.
Plagiarism wasn’t much of an issue back in the dark ages, i.e. before the digital revolution. It has now become so prevalent in students’ work that…