Plagiarism investigations at Welsh universities rise in the last 5 years

Main concern reportedly lies with bespoke essay writing websites

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The Independent Online

The challenges around university plagiarism have resurfaced, this time with universities in Wales battling to crack down on the practice, particularly the use of essay writing sites.

According to figures obtained by BBC Wales Today, half of universities in the country have seen an increase in the number of cases being investigated since the 2010/11 academic year.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which monitors university standards, however, told the programme the use of the bespoke sites is not illegal, as technological advancements and more students now attending university than ever being cited as some of the reasons why plagiarism is on the rise.

A QAA spokesperson told the programme cheating “has no place in UK higher education,” and that institutions take their responsibilities “very seriously” within this area.

One site claiming to offer information on how to find the best essay writing site” outlines the “top services” according to students. One of the sites charges first-years almost £40 per page for use of six hours of its services, and highlights how prices for custom papers can depend on “urgency, academic level, and the number of pages.”

A Cardiff University spokesperson told the Independent in a statement the institution takes allegations of plagiarism “extremely seriously,” adding: “All students are provided with advice and information about plagiarism during their induction. This includes advice against the use of essay banks and/or other external agencies. Any allegation of plagiarism is investigated under the university’s Unfair Practice Procedure. This procedure includes anyone who is suspected of using the services of essay banks and/or any other external agencies.

“Cardiff University students are also required to confirm their work as their own when they submit any written assessments. Any student who is concerned about their studies should discuss them with their academic tutors or consult our Student Support Services who are able to offer professional advice and support.”

The news has come months after another investigation into plagiarism by The Times found the nation’s universities are in the midst of an “epidemic” as almost 50,000 students were caught cheating in the last three years.

Citation tool RefME also recently carried out a survey into attitudes towards plagiarism to find half of UK students are losing marks for not referencing their work correctly, something which could see them facing accusations of cheating.

The team behind the tool said: “Widespread concern over facing disciplinary actions can be easily avoided by simply learning to reference correctly and accurately.”

Cheating is currently an issue the international education community is working to crack down on; a Thai university was forced to cancel a series of entrance exams in May after three prospective students were found to be cheating using super high-tech gadgets, including smartwatches and glasses embedded with cameras.

Chinese state media also reported in June that students in the country found to be cheating in college entrance exams has, for the first time, become a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

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