Finger points to Bath copycats

January 21, 2005

A student was rewarded with a distinction for plagiarised work, quality chiefs have revealed in a damning inspection report of City of Bath College, writes Phil Baty.

The revelation of the lax approach to plagiarism is among a catalogue of quality-control failings listed by the Quality Assurance Agency after an inspection of the college's building and surveying courses.

Other problems included:

* Overgenerous marking, with a merit grade awarded to one student even though the work was substantially criticised by the marker

* The repetition of identical assessment tasks year after year, risking "the security and integrity of the assessment process"

* The practice of allowing students to hand in work late, and then to resubmit it, with additional help from tutors, if they are not happy with their grade.

The QAA report, published this week, says: "Overall the reviewers have no confidence in the academic standards achieved by the programmes in building and surveying at the City of Bath College."

The report covers two higher national certificate programmes for 34 students, one in building services engineering and another in construction.

It found that the college's approach to plagiarism "lacked precision".

Staff had told the QAA's review team that they were confident that plagiarism could be "readily identified". But, in reality, while small groups allowed staff to spot students who copied from each other, the college was "unable to defend the claim with respect to plagiarism from other sources".

The report says: "The reviewers found examples of students incorporating large sections of unreferenced material in assignments; in one case... the work was awarded a distinction."

Where plagiarism was found, it was not properly punished, the QAA says.

Students caught cheating were made to submit an extra piece of work, which was marked according to the original grading criteria without a marking penalty.

The repetition of the same questions year after year was also a problem.

"The reviewers consider this to pose a risk to the security and integrity of the assessment process."

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