University plagiarism soars by 20 per cent


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Plagiarism is a growing threat to the integrity of Britain's higher education system, the head of the body set up to hear students' complaints warns today.

The number of cases seen by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, the official body handling students' complaints about their universities, has soared by 20 per cent in the past year to 1,605.

Complaints from students accused of plagiarism have more than doubled in the past four years. Officials say it is not surprising the problem is on the increase, as essays are now readily accessible on the internet.

In his annual report, Independent Adjudicator Rob Behrens, warns that plagiarism is a "growing" problem which "continues to be a challenge to the integrity of university education". One of the main worries, he adds, is that students are often in the dark about what help they can get with their assignments because universities do not clearly lay down the rules. He says ambiguities should be removed so that students will understand the rules and that universities can protect their reputation.

The vast majority of complaints were over the awarding of grades and marking of assignments, accounting for 70 per cent of the total. Although only 6 per cent were about appeals against accusations of plagiarism, the numbers have doubled.

Officials expect complaints to soar again next year after tuition fees increases kick in, with students expecting more from their degree courses.