Tracey Bretag, 1962-2020

Tributes paid to a central figure in the international academic integrity community

October 29, 2020
Tracey Bretag, 1962-2020

One of the world’s leading experts on essay mills and contract cheating has died.

Tracey Bretag was born in Woy Woy, New South Wales in 1962 and grew up in Newcastle (in the same state) and then Rockhampton, Queensland. She did a first degree in English and history at James Cook University (1984) and then left Australia for most of the next decade. After two years in Canada, she returned home, travelled overland to England and then sailed a 37-foot catamaran to Lisbon and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean before spending time in both New York and Dallas.

Professor Bretag moved back to Australia in 1993, gained a qualification in teaching English as a second language and found work in a Japanese secondary school (1996-98). After returning home once more, she had short-term posts at Flinders University and the University of Adelaide before moving to the University of South Australia for the rest of her career. Initially a lecturer in management, she went on to become director of the Global Experience Program (2012-14), director of the Office for Academic Integrity (2015-18) and, from 2019, professor (higher education).

Academic integrity was also at the heart of the research carried out by Professor Bretag, who claimed that her work was motivated by “a commitment to positive student learning outcomes and protection of the values and quality of higher education”. She was the founding editor of the International Journal for Educational Integrity and editor-in-chief of the Handbook of Academic Integrity (2016). Major projects explored whether switching from essays to exams was a good way to stamp out cheating; the widespread use of essay mills and contract cheating; and how such practices could be “nipped in the bud” by introducing “appropriate penalties”.

Thomas Lancaster, senior teaching fellow in computing at Imperial College London, described Professor Bretag as someone whose “passion for integrity shone through in her work, editing books and journals, delivering training courses, writing papers and leading research projects.

“The last time I saw Tracey was in Calgary last year, where she’d travelled across the globe to inspire and motivate the fledgling Canadian academic integrity community. Even though she was ailing, Tracey was determined to go through with the gruelling programme of workshops, talks and advisory meetings she’d agreed...There couldn’t have been an academic integrity community without Tracey.”

Professor Bretag died of cancer on 7 October and is survived by her husband Philip Norris, a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.

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Reader's comments (2)

Thank you for sharing this tribute.
Tracey Bretag was an inspiration in her sessions in Calgary, held in April 2019. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute.