Plagiarism on rise at Australian universities as academics face pressure to pass international students

acu slide3 636x392WEAK students are being awarded nursing degrees by Australia’s top universities, putting the lives of patients at risk, an investigation has revealed.

“There are students that are falling through the cracks, and yes, they could end up being unsafe practitioners,” one academic, who worked for the University of Western Sydney and the Australian Catholic University told the ABC’s Four Corners.

“There are a group of students who I honestly believe ... should not be graduating.”

Academics told the ABC the pressure to pass underperforming full-fee paying international students, with one lecturer saying she was “staggered” by the increase in plagiarism.

The report also shed light on the murky world of the offshore agents used by Australian universities to recruit hundreds of thousands of students, mainly from China.

In one case, a Beijing agent who represents universities including Monash, Queensland, Sydney, Newcastle, Southern Cross, ACU, ANU and UTS, was caught on tape saying he would accept a forged school transcript if a student had a poor academic record.

Dr Zena O’Connor, who teaches at the University of Sydney, told Four Corners the income stream generated by international students was huge. 

At Sydney University, international students make up a quarter of all enrolments while at RMIT in Melbourne they make up 50 per cent.

“I’m staggered by the increase in plagiarism. To start with, in my experience, it was a very small proportion, you know, maybe two, three, four per cent. I would peg it now at being much, much higher, well over 50 per cent. And some of the cases of extreme plagiarism where a student has plagiarised at least 80 per cent if not up to 100 per cent of their paper, that proportion is growing, and that level of extreme plagiarism I didn’t see five or ten years ago.”

Dr O’Connor has not instituted formal proceedings against any students for plagiarism because she says she was told to do all she could to pass them.

Alex Barthel, who formerly ran the language centre at the University of Technology, Sydney, told Four Corners he had been a long-standing advocate for higher English language entry standards for universities.

“Academic staff increasingly are frustrated by the fact that they are there to teach pharmacy or engineering or IT or whatever they’re teaching and they’re basically saying, ‘It’s not my job to help somebody with 65 spelling errors on the first page of an assignment. It’s not my job to teach them basic English grammar.’”

The vice-chancellors of the University of Western Sydney and the Australian Catholic University declined requests for an interview with Four Corners.

Article source: ABC's Four Corners

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