This month’s Four Corners expose on Australia’s burgeoning international student trade revealed a system in crisis. Australia’s universities were shown to have slashed education standards in a bid to lure international students, with many lacking the basic English skills necessary to succeed. The end result was increased cases of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and rising failure rates among international students.
What is perhaps most disheartening about this latest report is that we have been down this road before. In 2015, Four Corners aired a similar expose entitled “Degrees of Deception”, which documented widespread cheating, plagiarism and fraud by international students at Australia’s universities (read transcript here). For example, Sydney University lecturer Zena O’Connor stated that she was “staggered by the increase in plagiarism” and estimated that the proportion of international students that cheated was “well over 50 per cent”.
In the four years between both Four Corners exposes, we’ve received multiple other reports of cheating by international students.
Last year, an ABC investigation 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”.
And earlier this year, international student associations demanded greater regulation of overseas education agents amid widespread cheating on English tests to gain entry into Australian universities.
New Zealand, too, is experiencing similar problems with cheating by international students.
Earlier this month, half of international students studying at Auckland University were accused of buying their essays from ghost-writers.
Now, a New Zealand lecturer, whose name has been kept secret to protect their career, told 1 News that ghostwriting has become so endemic that half of the international students in their class have been failed for cheating. Another anonymous lecturer also claimed that they have been pressured by management to pass failing international students:
“Management are extremely naive and out of touch if they think that this doesn’t go on in their institutions,” they said…
“I’ve signalled for some years now that we have a serious problem, only to be ignored while the problem grows,” they said. “In my view it seems easier to take international students’ money than address the prolific cheating that occurs, it’s both unethical and immoral”…
According to the lecturer, half their classes are international students.
“They can barely write a paragraph in English. The quality of the general work they hand in is absolutely appalling.
“They’re paying anywhere from $30,000-$50,000 a year to study here, so from a student’s perspective it’s natural to expect that they will be awarded a degree. Higher education has become a simple commercial transaction. Pay the money, pass the paper.”
The lecturer said students swear they’re not cheating, but when confronted, clam up, threaten self-harm or have even said they’ll accuse the lecturer of racism…
Another lecturer, whose identity 1 NEWS has also chosen to withhold, said final exam results among international students are often so low, university management strongly encourages them to bump up marks to improve the overall pass rate.
This is what happens when higher education is commercialised, and international students are treated as customers to be milked for profit.
A culture has been created where these students believe they have a right to purchase the qualification they have paid for, rather than earn it. In turn, education standards have been eroded alongside widespread cheating.
It’s time for a royal commission into the whole rotten university system.