Rise in 'copied' university statements

Almost 8,500 students were suspected of copying in their university applications last year, with new figures showing the number suspected of plagiarising their personal statements has more than tripled in a year.

In 2011, 8,458 university applicants were flagged up as having similarities in their personal statements, compared with 2,450 in 2010, according to figures obtained from admissions body Ucas by BBC Radio 4.

In 2008, 3,098 applicants had their statements flagged. As part of the application process, would-be students are asked to write a personal statement containing their achievements, skills and any information they feel will make them stand out from the crowd.

Ucas uses specialist software to check personal statements against others in the system for similarities.

The sharp rise in the number of flagged applicants between 2010 and 2011 was down to the introduction of a more stringent threshold for picking up these similarities, Ucas said.

Any statements that are flagged up are checked, and that information can be passed on to the university a student is applying to.