Student expelled for internet plagiarism

A student who admits plagiarising his work throughout his three-year degree plans to sue his university for negligence after his activities were exposed the day before his final exam.

A student who admits plagiarising his work throughout his three-year degree plans to sue his university for negligence after his activities were exposed the day before his final exam.

Michael Gunn, an English undergraduate, will leave the University of Kent at Canterbury without a degree and £11,000 in debt after a routine review of his work "revealed extensive plagiarism from internet sources". Mr Gunn, 21, claims he had no idea that his methods - cutting and pasting material from the internet without attribution - constituted plagiarism.

"I hold my hands up. I did plagiarise," he told The Times Higher Education Supplement. "But I always used the internet, cutting and pasting stuff and matching it with my own points. It's a technique I've used since I started the course and I never dreamt it was a problem. I can see there is evidence that I have gone against the rules, but they've taken all my money for three years and pulled me up the day before I finished. If they had pulled me up with my first essay at the beginning, and warned me of the problems, it would be fair enough. But all my essays were handed back with good marks and no one spotted it."

Mr Gunn's mother, Elaine, said the family was looking for a lawyer to take up the challenge of a potentially landmark test case. "It is not about the money," she said. "We just don't want this to happen to others."

David Nightingale, the university's deputy vice-chancellor, said Mr Gunn's future would not be determined until a final meeting of his examiners next week. He added: "The university has robust and well-established procedures in place to combat plagiarism and our students are given clear guidance on this issue... in the faculty and department's handbooks."

A spokesman for the National Union of Students said the union did not condone plagiarism, but said that there was an urgent need for universities to spell out what is and is not acceptable practice regarding information on the internet.

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