University of Glasgow mulls turning away from Turnitin

Scottish university signs up with rival plagiarism detection service after complaining about ‘operational difficulties’

September 2, 2015
Exam cheating, woman writing notes on arm

A Russell Group university is considering cancelling its Turnitin licence owing to long-running “operational difficulties” with the plagiarism detection service.

California-based Turnitin counts 98 per cent of the UK’s higher education institutions among its subscribers, but the University of Glasgow is the first in the country to sign up with Urkund, a Swedish rival.

At the moment the university is using both systems, but Times Higher Education understands that Glasgow will cut its ties with Turnitin if the Urkund trial proves successful.

Urkund says that it is discussing prices with a further three UK universities, and that about half a dozen are currently trialling its product.

A spokesman for Glasgow said the potential switch reflected concerns about the performance of Turnitin, which THE reported on last year.

“We have experienced some operational difficulties with Turnitin over the last few years and so we have been looking at alternatives,” the spokesman said. “We have undertaken a very limited but successful pilot with Urkund and are now moving to a larger-scale evaluation exercise while, at the same time, ensuring continuity of academic activity through retaining Turnitin.

“The outcomes of this exercise will have a significant bearing on our future strategy on plagiarism detection.”

Most of Urkund’s clients are in Scandinavia, but in July the company was chosen to supply plagiarism detection to India’s public universities.

Andreas Ohlson, chief executive of Urkund’s holding company, Prio Infocenter, said he hoped that Glasgow’s decision “will influence other universities in the UK, many of which are already in discussions with us”.

Last year’s THE article quoted concerns raised by a number of university employees on a Turnitin discussion forum about increases in subscription charges of up to 31 per cent year-on-year, and about outages in service.

In response to those complaints, a Turnitin spokesman said that use of its service was at an all-time high, with a 400 per cent increase in submissions in the past five years and more staff and students using the service.

Many institutions had received “substantial initial discounts”, he added, which explained why some were seeing large percentage increases.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (1)

The rising number of Turnitin submissions might just be linked to improved virtual learning environment integrations and thus the lowering of the barrier to usage. It's not necessarily due to the strength of the product itself. OR - if you make water closer to horses, they probably drink more (but it doesn't mean you've improved the taste). Alternative suppliers in this _market_ is a good thing.

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