Rise in cheating allegations at UEA

There has been a rise in cheating at UEA, it has been alleged. A total of 70 allegations of cheating in UEA examinations were registered in 2014 – 2015, indicating more than a 30 percent increase in cheating in two years.

According to the Freedom of Information request obtained by the Eastern Daily Press, the majority of the offences were committed by international, non- EU students. Seven incidents were recorded by home and EU students during 2012 – 2013, rising to nine in 2014 – 2015. However, 44 international students were accused of cheating during the academic year ending July 2013, rising to 61 allegations two years later.

It is worth noting, however, that these figures show a rise in allegations of cheating, rather than proven cheating incidents.

According to a UEA spokesperson, many of the allegations were “minor or technical breaches of [UEA’s] very strict examination procedures, rather than real attempts to cheat”.

Last year, most reports were made due to unauthorised possession of notes – a total of 20 incidents – whilst 17 students are alleged to have started writing before the official start of the examination, and nine continued to write after the exam had concluded. There were also incidents of entrants communicating and using mobile phones.

Addressing the discrepancy of incidents between home and international students, the spokesperson blamed the differences between education systems and cultures across the globe.

“Overseas students are less used to the examination culture than UK students who will have had experience at A Level examinations of the sort of restrictions we have in place, such as the bar on mobile phones being on a person during the examination.”

Speaking to Concrete, Undergraduate Officer Theo Antoniou-Philips dismissed the idea of these statistics suggesting a cheating problem at UEA, but suggested that more be done to help international students adapt to the British education system.

“The information disclosed shows a modest and probably statistically insignificant rise in recorded incidents of cheating at UEA. However, while the number of allegations is insignificant, the difference between home and international students is concerning, especially because we believe that international students are unwittingly cheating due to misunderstanding. Therefore, the Union would like to call on UEA to improve induction and education around assessment offences, particularly for international students”.

Malaika Jaovisidha, International Students Officer, had nothing further to add.


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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Rise in cheating allegations at UEA”

  1. Yeah, it’s not like the rules are posted up RIGHT THERE and explained verbally before the exam, or anything.

    These kids understand 9 times out of 10 exactly what cheating is, and what constitutes it. The only way they couldn’t would be if they can’t read or understand English. Which would be a far more serious problem for students sitting exams than bringing a phone in. Muttering ‘cultural differences’ simply smacks of lazy guilt from white-saviours, and an unwillingness to sit down with people and understand the real issues.

    The problem is not that Asian/international students don’t understand that using a phone in exams is cheating. It is that most international students simply don’t care that they’re cheating – because the cost of failure is so much higher.

    Think about it. Most international students have come over to UEA, as you note, from a completely different academic and cultural environment. They will, naturally, struggle at first to do well in a new course, in a new country, with a new teaching language. We all would. (Just think of most UK national students’ first-year exam results, compared to high school.) And that’s without the added pressure of adapting to spend so much time thousands of miles away from home. The specialist support for international students who at first have less-than-perfect English or essay results, even at UEA, is poor.

    But failure, even under those circumstances, is not tolerated well by kids who’ve previously been extremely academically successful (or by their parents, who’ve paid a lot of money to send them abroad.) Imagine how you’d feel, if you’d literally never done badly in your exams before, performed well enough to come to a university abroad in a country where only a tiny percentage of people go to university, spoke English better than most of your classmates, had been constantly taught that the costs of failure weren’t just you being on benefits or getting a manual job but of your family and children potentially starving because high-paying jobs are closed off to you – in your country, it is like that – and *then, you start to struggle.

    You don’t just fear dropping out with a couple grand in student debt and having to move back into your parents house, because you partied too hard.

    You fear that you’ll be in dozens of grand of foreign debt, with no result to show for it. You fear that your academic results will be too poor to keep your scholarship, or, worst case, your visa, and you’ll be deported. Literally placed back on the plane. You fear your parents who bragged about your straight As (and who have worked harder than most Western parents will to send you there, out of pocket, because you do not get tuition fees or student loans sponsored by the government) will be deeply ashamed of you. The pressure to do well for these kids is crushing.

    Even domestically, it’s crushing. In China, cheating in the gaokao or Imperial service exam is practically an annual tradition. So much so, they had to make it a criminal offence punishable by 7 years in jail. India routinely has cases of test corruption and grade-switching make the national news – just google ‘BBC Bihar cheating’.

    So, you don’t just need to hold seminars on exam protocol as part of regular classes, or change the written language that exam regulations are explained in and how big they’re printed/placed, or search students before going into exams, although that would be a start. (And it is true that cheating in some culture’s exams is considered less serious an offense – more of a tactic – and invigilation is less stringent.) You need to change a support system, so students never fall behind and resort to cheating in the first place. And you need to change an entire academic culture. Explain to students that it’s okay to not do very well, or even to fail, without fearing getting kicked out. Explain that the first year of university is a time to mess things up and get things right, with everyone’s ability being assessed, and no-one being judged forver. Make them feel that the cost of cheating is never personally higher than the cost of not cheating. And remind them they really don’t have to tell their parents if they got a C. That even if they might aim high, scoring low does not mean the opposite (that they are failures) and is not a reflection of their inherent self-worth – because nothing can take that away.

    But then, that’s harder to do than assuming that bright students are too dim to read a sign saying ‘no phones’, or that cheat-notes are normal in foreign exams and should be made allowances for here.

    It’s very reflective of a system where we don’t quite ‘get’ international students, or how to help them better.

  2. If you can’t understand exam regulations, then why are you studying a degree?

    If you ask me it’s not about misunderstanding. It’s a culture among non-EU international students that they need to push the boundaries of what is allowed in order to gain the upper hand. It’s every man for himself, hence every extra line you can write once the time has stopped, for example, could place you over someone else. Have j just described an act of cheating? Yes. Is it a misunderstanding? No. The rules are clear as day. They choose to push them.

September 2021
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