UNIVERSITY students are increasingly paying impersonators to sit their exams or smuggling in technology to help them cheat, while other students cannot be trusted to sit in sloping auditoriums because of their willingness to copy answers in multiple-choice tests, a new report reveals.
A taskforce at Sydney University has released its first report into academic misconduct after the university was embroiled in several high-profile cheating scandals, including revelations as many as 1000 students from 16 universities paid a Sydney-based company, MyMaster, to ghost write their assignments.
Universities are grappling with the new lengths that students take to gain advantage. At the University of NSW, all wrist watches have been banned from exam rooms to ensure students do not use technology to cheat.
The report, based on an investigation across Sydney University’s faculties in May and June, found ‘‘plagiarism, collusion, recycling and ghost writing’’ were problems plaguing take-home assignments but cheating in formal exams, especially those with multiple-choice questions, was also a concern.
‘‘The problem of cheating in exams is not trivial – a study on multiple choice exams within the university revealed an average level of cheating of about 5 per cent,’’ it said.
Academics also believe a black market for fake doctors’ certificates exists, allowing students to ‘‘claim illness and apply to re-sit the exam at a later date’’, the report warned.
The report warned that universities worldwide were struggling with the issue of ‘‘rapidly rising substitution and impersonation’’ in exams, and even though biometric identification was increasingly being used, students were finding cunning ways to beat even that.
It said there was anecdotal evidence that students use miniature cameras to copy exams and then distribute them to fellow students.
The chairman of Sydney University’s academic board, associate professor Peter McCallum, said the report revealed there was a ‘‘disproportionately’’ high number of students from its business school who engaged in academic misconduct but that did not suggest it was a problem unique to business courses. ‘‘What we suspect is that there is under-detection [across the university],’’ associate professor McCallum said.