Half of international students accused of plagiarism

In 2015, ABC’s Four Corners aired a damning report entitled “Degrees of Deception”, which documented widespread cheating, plagiarism and fraud by international students at Australia’s universities [my emphasis]:

Linton Besser’s story tonight reveals a sorry state: corruption, widespread plagiarism, cheating and exploitation…

PAUL FRIJTERS, LECTURER, SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS, UNI. OF QUEENSLAND: We’ve got to pass the vast majority of our students, no matter what their level is, no matter what their prior knowledge is, no matter how much or how little effort they put in.

ROBERT WALDERSEE: The conditions within the university are conducive to corruption… Students being exploited; students cheating; students bribing academics; academics being pressured to turn a blind eye to problems…

The risk is they’re going to put applicants through to the university with fake qualifications, or who they know have cheated on tests, or who are trying to undertake some sort of visa fraud…

The falsification of documents that comes through from students is often done in collusion with the, ah, agents themselves. In some cases, the universities have hired independent verifiers to check documents and qualifications and only to find that the students and the agents have been colluding or bribing the document verifiers as well…

LINTON BESSER: At Sydney University, international students now make up a quarter of all enrolments. At other universities like RMIT in Melbourne, they’re almost 50 per cent of the cohort.

With thousands of students often struggling with English, the pressure to pass is helping to fuel a black market…

ZENA O’CONNOR: I’m, I’m staggered by the increase in plagiarism. Ah, to start with: in my experience, it was a very small proportion – you know, maybe two, three, four per cent. I would peg it now at being much, much higher: well over 50 per cent.

LINTON BESSER: The academics who have spoken out tonight are not alone in their concerns. In our research for this program, we spoke with scores of academics around Australia. The vast majority had witnessed or personally experienced the pressure to ignore plagiarism and to pass weak students.

Multiple other reports have similarly documented widespread cheating by international students across Australia’s universities.

For example, in 2014, Chinese students were embroiled in a large-scale ghost-writing scandal, facilitated by universities welcoming international students who whistleblowing academics labelled “functionally illiterate”.

In 2015, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) demanded universities curb cheating by international students after 70 students from the universities of Newcastle and Sydney, and several other major universities, were caught up in a cheating racket.

An ABC investigation last year reported that “English language standards are often too low or can be sidestepped via loopholes, and that students are often put in stressful classroom situations that can lead to cheating”.

In January, international student associations called for greater regulation of overseas migration agents amid widespread cheating on English tests to gain access to Australian universities.

And following last week’s Four Corners expose, domestic students at Murdoch University claimed that “some international students were trying to circumvent the language gap by plagiarising their assignments or contracting outside sources for help”.

It seems cheating by international students extends across the pond, with around half of international students studying at Auckland University accused of buying their essays from ghost-writers:

An exclusive 1 NEWS investigation has uncovered allegations of widespread cheating, undermining the integrity of New Zealand’s universities and tertiary institutions.

Chinese students have told 1 NEWS that as many as half of the international students studying at Auckland University buy their essays from ghostwriters.

More than 125,000 international students study in New Zealand, the biggest group from China, followed by India…

This Chinese student, who 1 NEWS called Ju, claims as many as half the international students at Auckland University are buying other people’s work and passing it off as their own.

“I have to say many of my friends are buying essays,” Ju said. “I’ve done it about five to six times.”

Another Chinese student has a similar story. Camera-shy, we used an actor. “I paid someone else to write essays for me during the start of uni,” she said.

Known as ghostwriting, it’s a practice well known to some at the Chinese Student Association.

This member, Kai, studies at Massey University.  “There’s a large number of international students buying their essays. They definitely know they’re cheating,” Kai said.

Finding a ghostwriter on the internet is easy. 1 NEWS contacted one of over 10,000 advertising on the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, Taobao.

In a text conversation with 1 NEWS, the ghostwriter said: “Basically we charge 20 New Zealand cents a word. An urgent or a guaranteed A grade essay costs more. Just send me your essay topic, then I can arrange a writer for you”…

A 2015 ICAC investigation entitled “Managing corruption risks associated with international students” warned that:

“…in the search for international students, some universities in NSW are entering markets where document fraud and cheating… are known to exist…

False entry qualifications, cheating on English-language proficiency tests, essay mills selling assignments, plagiarism, cheating in university exams and paying others to sit exams are reportedly common.

The pressures within universities are also conductive to corruption”.

With corruption in Australia’s universities seemingly endemic, it’s time for a Royal Commission into the sector.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. And now we are going to have Tanya P chuck the spanner at the Uni/Vet sector & open the gates. QE the uni/vet sector in the name of education for all. WTF have we come to?
    RIP Bob Hawke. History will remember him fondly, I think he was an OK PM who played his hand as best he could. Could he have done better, who knows? He did ok in the circumstances & the era. Was it a great reforming period? Yes & No, balance says yes. But 4 elections in 9 years is sort of pushing it really, so perhaps the punters weren’t that sure? So we had Hawke then we had Keating! I will cease now.

    • In a Senate Estimates hearing earlier this year, the Higher education regulator was asked why it was taking so long to approve new entrants into the sector, that answers your question.

  2. What came first, prostitution or demand for it?
    Age old question.

    If supply is restricted or prohibited, demand can be meaningless. This is why your supermarkets do not have an isle with heroin, crack, ecstasy, coke, Mary Jane etc and contact adhesive is allowed only because it has another originally intended purpose.
    If uni’s were allowed to award diplomas based on donations and not as a reflection of merit, diplomas awarded by them would reflect donation level.
    Luckily, this is not the case. Oh, well..

    Imagine if Oxford Uni did not check against plagiarism in every academic document… which became even easier in digital data era as computers could do months worth of documents check in minutes.

    Bottom line, if uni’s did not offer paypass avenue, the demand for it would be meaningless. Projecting this as some sort of external corruption (by ambiguous ‘foreign students’) is beyond irrational and crosses into malice. This because those that are not prone to corruption cannot (or are extremely difficult) to corrupt and demand for their corruption would be meaningless.
    Anyway… I’m just a CCP shill…

    • haroldusMEMBER

      I found that very difficult to understand. But that may be a function of a variety of things.

      • You are not alone. That came across as a stream of drunk consciousness (which, by all accounts, I should be able to interpret!)

      • One think Djenka touched on (I think) was that journals and some universities use software that spots plagiarism. This is not hard to set up and it would most likely also make the essay factory business harder to operate as every contracted piece would have to be an original composition. It’s what the Australian degree mill model needs to do if they are to have any credibility, but it means that they will have to create a massive administrative system to cope with it.

        I have a lot of sympathy for overseas students who have worked hard to meet an exacting standard. They are being screwed over even more than local students because their degree is tainted by those who cheat. Back home who is to know the difference between honest scholarship and cheaters. Functionally bilingual students are truly valuable but they are not being allowed to stand out from the crowd if poor standards of English are accepted and cheaters are given the same degree.

      • I think this 12:53 am post is saying that all foreign “students” are saints and the Aussie authorities are the sinners.

        If I remember correctly, he used to say “these illegal wage workers were invited into AUS by Aussie governments”.

      • @ Jacob

        Sorry to disappoint you, it was a 16:53 post (in Europe) and typed from a phone into a 3 line text window.
        Nope, I did not say it was foreign students that are saints. They are as guilty as say those that buy illegal substances on the black market.
        I said that if Unis did not put diplomas (and anything leading to them, e.g. accepting plagiats) on “for sale” shelf there could be no buyers.
        The guilt is squarely in the Unis court, for allowing this. Students have no control of that

        I did say, previously, that what you and “Magic numbers Mike” call “illegal” immigrants are actually people that were legally allowed entry and work into this country by the gov.au.
        Illegal immigrants is what i.e. Europe or South Africa deals with, people that crossed the border illegally. As you know, this is impossible in Aus. Closest to illegal one can be in Aus is Visa overstayers and the data on the numbers and the country of origin for those folks is devastating for xenophobes (it’s their ‘desirable’ groups that abuse this the most).

      • @ Clive

        “…but it means that they will have to create a massive administrative system to cope with it. ”

        Not at all.
        If there is a digital record of every uni essay done in Aus stored in central database where it is scanned for the keywords and indexed for searching, to cross check an essay would take seconds and one ghost written essay could be used only once (first time).
        Ghost writers recycle same essay over and over and that is what makes them “affordable”. If one has to write a brand new essay for each student again and again, the cost would be enormous and it would be impossible for one ghost writer to do it more than a few times without spotting the similarities (plagiarism of own writings).
        Text databases are relatively small as they don’t need to record the actual letters but rather complete words (e.g. 10000 word document could be as small as 160KB and easily searchable by words)

      • SchiwagoMEMBER

        @ Djenka
        this is aleady standard practice for many years, all student submissions are subjected to plagiarism detection.
        and it works well and it is extremely fast.

    • + many. The folks who have the power is the uni management and regulators/gov.

      I think people get upset because they prefer to blame other folks, easier than blaming oneself. As always, poor people and immigrants will get blamed.

      It’ll work out – most of the people coming over cannot manage now, never mind when the economy collapses. Many would-be immigrants will loose their shirts, and go home with tales of woe. I mean, its not about the actual level of English proficiency is it? Its about how without said proficiency, there are no (legal) jobs to do, and you cannot manage your own life, never mind succeed.

      The folks we would (as Australians) want immigrating are not coming over – its well known in business circles how corrupt Australian businesses are; the implication is the government is super corrupt too. Why would people who have options come to Australia?

      The only people currently immigrating to Australia are the stupid, criminal and greedy. Unfortunately, without the stupid, criminal and greedy, the economy will collapse, because the majority of Australian business leadership has only ever thrived in this environment. So we need more stupid/criminal/greedy immigrants.

      Good riddance. Let it burn.

      p.s. Most immigrants are pretty stupid (esp the ones coming in at the moment). Many of them have no idea what is actually going on. Imagine your exposure was limited to catching snippets of Channel 7 over a really bad radio connection in a storm. They do some poking around, figure out hacks/corner cutting to survive – never realizing that they were put in there for the purpose of figuring out hacks/corner cutting. And no one gives a sh!t whether immigrants actually end up with a better quality of life.

      Immigrants think they are making some sacrifices, to get ahead, but everything else is legit and solid. Paying their dues. So it makes sense to try get ahead without worrying too much about laws etc. Wait till they work out everything else is also rigged, and they were lied to the entire way.

      These people will not do business with anyone/anything in Australia for generations. Selling folks a sh!t sandwitch while profiting off them, and then virtue signalling about it… In the old days this was known as hubris.

  3. To be fair, they are paying for a degree, not the privilege of studying.’

    And, if the plagiarism is that high, why test them at all? Only test the Australians and give the immis a paper of lesser quality, it’s all they deserve for trying to game the system

    • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

      The issue is many Australians are paying for a Uni degree to, and the Universities, realising that half of their international students are hopelessly ill prepared to study in Australia, shift a large part of the burden of getting these parasites through their degree by forcing Australians to work for/with these dead weights on collaborative projects and assignments, so that if the local student wants to do well they pretty much have to re-write and submit the entire group collaborative effort.

      My brother complained as he was finishing his degree that he’d regularly have to do this, as one of his Indian no hoper collaborators would submit his component of work in txt short hand, as in “Hi M8, r u going 2 Uni 2nite?” Basically the Universities and tutors were pressuring local students to carry these foreign fee paying fleas through their Univiersity degrees.

      • I was almost through my BEc at ANU in the 80s when HECS came in, Stewie. Everything changed and quickly, and for the worse. More and more students just strained the whole place and we went from free to paid parking over a short period of time. Later I dd MBA and saw how the group assignments were not, as they said, to prepare students for working in teams; no, the groups were a way for weaker students to get a pass mark on course work as the smarter ones would never leave shit in a group assignment. For essays, our work was always put through an online, global, algo to look for repeated expressions which match a different student’s essay. So, some attempt, but it would appear to be getting worse as the institutions fall over themselves to attract the money.
        No one studies Latin anymore – I wanted to pursue Roman Anthro or some such lofty shit at the time. Different time, long gone

      • haroldusMEMBER

        It is enraging.

        I was doing a Masters at MQ, about the only local, the group work was as expected, and they have the gall to hassle you about getting it in on time when you have to rewrite every other submission.

        So, no more PG study in Aus for harry.

      • Master Degrees are on the shortlist for accelerated permanent residency, tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian overseas students enrol into these courses without the necessary English language skills, they’re devaluing the worth of Masters Degrees as well.

      • @ jimsmith76
        …overseas students enrol into these courses without the necessary English language skills,…

        Q: ever wondered how/why this is not the case at say Harward or Oxford?
        A: because these unis reject such students, for now

        barking at the wrong tree in totally wrong direction

  4. I think its a cultural ‘thing’. With regards to education there will be always people who cheat but it does seem more prevalent with our Ashian neighbours. Purely anecdotal but it does appear that way. Look at all the IP they flog. No scruples.

    Australia is a fake country whoring itself. We are in the gutter. Shameful.

  5. I think its a cultural ‘thing’. With regards to education there will be always people who cheat but it does seem more prevalent with our Ashian neighbours. Purely anecdotal but it does appear that way. Look at all the IP they flog. No scruples.

    Australia is a fake country whoring itself. We are in the gutter. Shameful.

    PS the above is my own original work. 😀

  6. Its certainly a waste of money to send your kids to a private school to get a high ENTER and get into a top Uni.

    Better to have one more kid with the money you save and have them become tradies.

  7. I’m going to start:
    1) a university for Australian born people “Native University”
    2) a private health insurer for people born after 1975 “No Boomers Health” for cheapest premiums in the country.

    • you’re a free to register your own Higher education provider with the national regulator and instead of being a provider who simply recruits students, you would differentiate yourself as a provider who ‘selects’ students.

  8. Just out of interest, Does anyone know how much Ghost-writing Uni essays pays?
    If the amount is right it could be a great little post retirement gig for many academics
    Better still it could be a fantastic AI opportunity, Supply 10 to 20 relevant facts along with some previous writing of your own and get an auto generated guaranteed 100% original essay that even experts can’t prove you didn’t write….hmmm now that’s my kinda business, I might look into it

    • I thought Law uses a lot of automatic document reading and synthesis software?

      • Never mind law, synthetic Journalism is all the rage today
        AP supplies a half a dozen facts and AI does the rest.
        Twenty Instant stories, all unique, all auto-generated and all built on exactly the same half dozen known facts.
        Better still you can have 100 unique stories tailored to an individual readers known prejudices / preferences.
        Now that sounds like a business opportunity especially in the Facebook world of Feeds and Likes.

  9. My mum was one of those old grannies that supervised university exams. She was doing this in the early 2000’s onwards. She regularly caught foreign students cheating and the lecturer had to be called etc. essentially they were let off as they were ‘full fee paying’ students and the university didn’t want to bite the hand that feeds it. She was a bit jaded by this.

  10. I went looking for a tudor to potentially assist with some heavy quant subjects I was undertaking a few years back. EVERY single reply I received from apparently qualified Uni tutors and a lecturer was a price list for completing the assignment for me!

    The level of cheating across the sector must be staggering!

  11. Back in the eigthies I sat a few Quant Methods Exams for Commerce students. The math (basic calculus) was a bit much for them. They pretty much checked nothing back then to verify who was sitting.