Students cheating in UK: Using invisible ink and the India link
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Students cheating in UK: Using invisible ink and the India link

Cheating and plagiarism are often detected in UK’s universities, but they do not make as much news as images of mass cheating in India did.

world Updated: May 13, 2017 23:23 IST
mass cheating,office of independent adjudicator,Birmingham City University
“Contract cheating” with links to India was first reported in 2008 by academics at Birmingham City University.(Reuters File)

It may not be on the same scale as mass cheating in some exams in India, but the latest report by Britain’s higher education watchdog has revealed the case of a law student using invisible ultraviolet ink to writes notes to help her.

Cheating and plagiarism are often detected in universities here, but they do not make as much news as images of mass cheating in India did recently. Academics and researchers have discerned an India link in the fine line between “contract cheating” and plagiarism.

The office of independent adjudicator (OIA) for higher education set out examples and number of complaints in its latest annual report, and said initiatives were helping protect and enhance national and international confidence in the sector.

One of the examples highlighted is of a law student who complained about the penalty imposed on her for cheating in an examination.

“She had annotated a law statute book with invisible UV ink, creating 24 pages of unauthorised notes which she took into her examination. She was seen using the notes by other students and the invigilator, who retained the statute book as evidence.

“The student did not deny the offence but appealed on the basis of unfair penalty, extenuating circumstances and procedural error. The provider determined there were no grounds for appeal and confirmed the penalty (to fail her in all modules for the year),” the report said.

It added that Indian and other non-EU students – particularly postgraduate students – continued to be over represented in complaints to the OIA.

“Our experience… suggests that these students are more inclined to exhaust all the available processes for raising complaints.

“The investment which they make in their studies is often substantial and many have made a significant commitment in taking on their course. International students pay higher fees and may also incur higher costs such as travel and, in some cases, visa applications.

“Postgraduate students have often put their careers on hold to pursue their studies. The family circumstances and sponsorship arrangements for these students may also mean that they are likely to be under greater pressure to ‘succeed’ in their course,” the report added.

The law student’s example and complaints are part of the discourse of student experience in the UK that includes “contract cheating” and “essay mills” that offer ready assignments for a fee online.

“Contract cheating” with links to India was first reported in academic circles in 2008 by academics Thomas Lancaster and Robert Clarke based at Birmingham City University. They say it has since become more sophisticated, making it difficult to detect through usual plagiarism detection software.

Lancaster told Hindustan Times: “We’ve observed a lot of people from India bidding to complete academic work for students. They make offers that are very appealing to students from the UK, they’ll do the assignment for what is a low price for a UK student, but a good living wage for the worker in India.”

According to him, India-based advertising for such services mention possession of degrees from British universities, which suggests they are familiar with the British education system, making them attractive for potential student-customers.

He said: “There are a lot of fluent English speakers in India. Students can hire these people and get their assignments produced to a similar standard as if they’d used a more expensive native English speaker.

“For instance, in my area of computer science, we see requests for students to have their computer programming assignments completed for them. A programmer based in India can often complete an introductory assignment in a few hours, while this would take a new student a few weeks. It works out as a good deal for both parties,” he said.

First Published: May 13, 2017 17:34 IST