Pens For Hire: official university statements

The Feed contacted the universities mentioned in our story. Below are their responses.

University of Technology, Sydney

Professor Shirley Alexander, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students) said: 

“The University of Technology Sydney believes that students paying impersonators to take an exam on their behalf is an extremely serious, and possibly fraudulent, act. It investigates all allegations of exam substitution immediately, has severe penalties for those found to have been involved in the practice, and refers cases to the police where appropriate. UTS is disappointed that SBS TV has declined to provide further information about this alleged case to UTS or authorities, to allow us to investigate further.

UTS is continually improving its technologies and procedures in order to catch those engaged in exam substitution. This includes the upgrading of student identification cards to more easily detect forgeries, and cross-checking of signatures by exam staff.      

At the same time, UTS is changing the nature of learning assessment, to remove demand for those people making a business out of exploiting the anxieties of students.”

 

Macquarie University

Macquarie's media department gave us this statement: 

Macquarie University takes academic integrity very seriously. A range of policies including Academic Honesty Policy and Student Code of Conduct outline the University’s governance approach and disciplinary framework.

Students sitting exams are required to provide their Macquarie University Campus Card as photographic proof of identity for the duration of the final examination. This must be visible at all times during the examination. In exceptional circumstances, the Final Examination Supervisor may allow alternative photographic proof of identity such as a current Australian drivers licence, a current Australian Proof of Identity card or a current passport.

The University’s Governance Services advise that the University hasn’t had any recent cases of substitution in an exam, with 2012 the last recorded incident. Offending parties were caught through the authentication process and disciplined in accordance with University policy.

The following statement in response to cheating allegations around assignments was posted on our newsroom in May of this year.

 

University of Wollongong

A spokesperson responded to The Feed's questions:

What checks are in place in exam rooms to ensure the person sitting the exam is the enrolled student? Are student IDs scanned, or is it a visual check of the photo comparing it with the person in the exam room?

All students attending a UOW exam must present their photo ID. They are required to display their photo ID on their desk throughout the exam and all IDs are checked during the exam.

The exam invigilators are trained to be alert to any behaviours or other physical signs that could indicate cheating and they do challenge and commence investigations when they suspect students  of cheating.

Has the university previously taken action targeting “exam impersonators”? What was this?

UOW has taken a range of preventative actions.

In addition to the photo ID and student details checks, UOW engages many experienced professional educators as exam invigilators. These experienced invigilators are trained in and adept at detecting behaviours that could potentially indicate cheating.

Any person suspected of cheating is initially challenged by the invigilator. If suspicion remains, evidence is collected immediately and the case is referred to the relevant faculty for investigation in accordance with UOW’s policies and procedures relating to academic misconduct.

UOW’s preventative action also includes educating students about academic integrity from the outset of their studies and providing support programs designed to identify students who may be struggling with their studies. These programs help students improve their academic performance so they can more confidently undertake exams without feeling any need to engage in misconduct.

Have any students been caught using “exam impersonators”? (in the last 10 years) If so, what penalty have they faced?

UOW has had one case involving an exam impersonator. The student received a fail grade for two subjects and was suspended for two semesters.

UOW is concerned by any allegations of cheating by any means, and thoroughly investigates all claims and takes action accordingly.

An example of how seriously the University of Wollongong takes academic integrity is the swift and decisive action taken in response to allegations of students cheating by using the MyMaster essay writing service aired in the Sydney Morning Herald in November 2014. This investigation led to seven students being referred to the University’s Student Misconduct Committee, with one student having their degree revoked and the remaining six students receiving a zero fail for that subject, a deferred 12 month suspension and a severe reprimand.

Any students found to have cheated via an exam impersonator face penalties from receiving a fail for that assessment activity through to being excluded from the University and/or having their degree rescinded.

For some professions, such as medical or legal qualifications, a finding of academic misconduct can also negatively affect the character assessment required for accreditation by professional bodies.

Has the university had any cases where a student has hired a non-student to sit their entire course, from start to finish?

UOW has never had a reported or detected instance of an impostor being engaged by a student to sit their entire course.

UOW has strict requirements for the presentation of identification at the point of enrolment to verify the student’s identity.

What, more broadly, is the university doing to combat academic misconduct?

UOW continues to pursue the highest standards of academic integrity on multiple fronts.

The use of cheating detection technologies such as ‘Turnitin’ is well established across the university.

In response to the development of ‘smart watches’ UOW recently changed its exam procedures to prohibit the wearing of watches during exams. UOW prides itself on offering a personalised learning experience for students. As part of this, academic staff get to know students’ academic work as much as possible in order to be as well placed as they can be to detect sudden changes in style, quality or standard that could indicate any form of cheating and warrant further investigation.

Faculties continue to monitor for any websites offering essay writing or other services to assist students to cheat. Where appropriate, UOW has initiated legal action against these services.

In a recent example a UOW faculty made a late change to a significant assessment task, replacing a take-home essay assignment with an in-class essay writing task following the detection of an online service attempting to help students cheat on that assignment.

Throughout 2015, UOW has undertaken a complete review of its policies and procedures relating to academic integrity with the aim of strengthening its ongoing efforts to prevent, detect and address all forms of academic misconduct.

A revised policy is now in the final stages of approval. It is the result of widespread consultation and research into Australian and international best practice. It will have far reaching implications across the university including enhanced reporting, developments in teaching and learning practices and assessment design. It will ensure academic integrity continues to be embedded into the curriculum in all UOW courses, according to best and contemporary practice, and is emphasised to all students from the outset.

 

University Of Newcastle

UON's media department gave us this statement: 

The University of Newcastle (UON) takes a rigorous and comprehensive approach to protecting and maintaining academic integrity.

UON has well-established systems to monitor and manage academic integrity issues and conducts regular reviews to ensure that systems and approaches to assessment reflect sector best practice.

Multiple measures are in place at the University to ensure all our students are aware of the importance of adhering to the highest academic and ethical standards, and the consequences of breaching these standards.

The number of incidents of contract cheating at the University are very low.  

 

Deakin University

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Beverley Oliver gave us this statement:

Deakin does not tolerate cheating of any kind.

Students found cheating are dealt with vigorously and face strict penalties, including expulsion.​

In all assessments, including exams, we constantly monitor academic integrity and we are vigilant in detection methods.

Deakin refutes these anonymous allegations but will not hesitate to act if they are substantiated. 

Source: University of Technology, Sydney, University of Western Sydney, University of Newcastle, Deakin University