Almost one in eight students at part of a UK branch campus in Dubai have been found guilty of cheating, it has emerged, with low entry standards being blamed for the figures.
One hundred and twenty-five students out of 1,045 in total were found guilty of academic misconduct at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus’ School of Management and Languages in 2011-12.
Entry standards have also been blamed for students struggling academically at the campus, with close to one in 12 across the Dubai branch failing to progress to the 2012-13 academic year.
The cheating issue was raised during a Heriot-Watt senate meeting in January, when the university’s principal, Steve Chapman, highlighted the “high proportion of cases involving collusion and plagiarism” at the campus, “particularly among students in the School of Management and Languages”, the minutes record.
In March, the senate considered a report into academic misconduct at the branch, which concluded that raising entry standards was an “important potential mechanism” for reducing cheating and improving progression rates.
One member of the senate expressed concern that entrance standards at the campus were lower than for students in Edinburgh.
A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt said that there was a minimum entry tariff that applied across all its campuses, but standards above that threshold could vary according to “the number of places available, the strength of demand, various international education systems and in some cases background”.
She added: “All students on identical programmes wherever they are taught are assessed according to the same criteria, and identical academic standards apply across the university.”
An “action plan” had been put in place to cut cheating at the school, the spokeswoman said, including “increasing awareness of required standards among entry-level students” and the use of anti-plagiarism software.
In 2012-13, cases of cheating at the school dropped from 11.9 per cent of students to 4.7 per cent, the spokeswoman said.
She added that Heriot-Watt’s branch campus was the largest in Dubai and that its entry standards were among the highest in the emirate.
It educates about 3,500 students, of whom around a third attend the School of Management and Languages.