Students face grilling by cheat detectives

February 11, 2005

Universities are being urged to establish an army of "academic conduct officers" to combat student cheats under new guidelines published this week.

The advice, Deterring, Detecting and Dealing with Student Plagiarism , also says it is crucial for universities to take a coordinated and institution-wide approach.

Jude Carroll of Oxford Brookes University, the principal author of the guidelines, said a recent conference had discovered that plagiarism cases were being tackled largely by individual academic "enthusiasts" within departments who lacked the authority to make overall changes to deal with the growing problem.

"It was clear that we needed to get to senior managers to change the culture and the whole approach," she said.

The guidelines, published by the Joint Information Systems Committee's Plagiarism Advisory Service, based at Northumbria University, are being sent to senior managers and other key staff in every academic institution.

Oxford Brookes, an anti-plagiarism pioneer, has 14 academic conduct officers who review alleged plagiarism cases, interview students and decide whether to impose any punishment.

Detection needs to play a part in institutions' strategies, the guidelines say.

The document recommends using the electronic detection system Turnitin, funded by Jisc. This compares submitted assignments with a database of some 5 billion webpages.

But Ms Carroll stressed: "Policies are needed to deal effectively with the cases we already detect and do little about."

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