Anonymous survey reveals surprising patterns of academic dishonesty

Nearly half of new students starting at Harvard this year have admitted to cheating in their studies before starting at university.

A tenth of the incoming class have cheated on an exam, while 42 per cent admit to doing homework dishonestly, according to the results of a survey by the university’s own newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

Athletic students were most likely to cheat, with 20 per cent confessing to chicanery in tests, compared to nine per cent of those who do not play a varsity sport. Men are twice as likely to have cheated.

Yet despite such a high number of students admitting to academic dishonesty, 84 per cent of the 1,300 freshmen questioned say that academic work is their main priority, above sports, extracurriculars, employment and social life. Not one respondent intends to put academic commitments at the bottom of their list.

These results follow the largest cheating scandal at Harvard in recent memory, in which over 120 students were investigated for swapping answers on an exam in 2012. Since that controversy, Harvard has maintained a strict anti-cheating policy, insisting that ‘all work submitted for credit is expected to be the student’s own work’.

In an email to NBC News, Harvard representative Jeff Neal explained that a committee of staff and students had been established to address the ‘national problem in American education’.

“While the vast majority of Harvard and other students do their work honestly,” he said, “beginning this year, Harvard College has implemented a new, more robust strategy of communicating with all students, particularly first-year students, about the importance - and the ways to achieve - academic integrity.”

Perhaps cheating will no longer be necessary, however, as 36 per cent of students anticipate studying for between 20 and 29 hours a week in college, while another 26 per cent expects to dedicate an eye-watering 30 to 39 hours of their time to academic work.