The University of Newcastle, Australia

Academic Integrity at UON

Friday, 14 November 2014

Colleagues may have seen coverage in the media this week that focuses on alleged academic misconduct by students across 15 universities who had reportedly used the services of MyMaster, an unscrupulous company targeting vulnerable students and offering to write assignments for them at a price. A small number of UON students – 22 according to media reports – were involved and we are currently seeking further details from the media outlet as to the nature of the students' involvement.

I was disappointed that a very small minority of students have not heeded our extensive warnings about the importance of academic integrity. Colleagues across UON will know that we do not tolerate cheating in any form, and we are investigating the circumstances of these alleged breaches of conduct. Quality assurance is at the heart of our programs and our academic integrity measures among the best in the sector.

As you are aware, every UON student is required to complete and pass an Academic Integrity Module in their first year of study. This is among the most robust academic integrity requirements that we know of across Australian universities.  Through this process all students will be familiar with 'Turnitin', the sector standard text familiarity software. The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) runs workshops on academic writing to support students develop their understanding of the norms of academic work. UON also takes the sensible precaution of using multiple methods of assessment to measure a student's capabilities.  CTL supports staff development to enhance our capacity to manage matters of academic integrity among our students, and staff are encouraged to use CTL as a resource in this area.

For over a decade we have had a well-established system of Student Academic Integrity Officers, operating within a robust policy framework, and consequently the University's systems for investigation and sanction are comprehensive and effective.

It was particularly disappointing to read in this morning's Fairfax newspapers that, since a widely reported incident of plagiarism at the University 11 years ago, 'nothing has changed'. In fact, a great deal has changed and improved as a result of the hard work of our staff, as the suite of measures above demonstrates. In 2008, the Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) commended UON's academic integrity and quality assurance processes and practices, and we continue to review and benchmark our performance against the sector.

The University of Newcastle will not compromise on academic quality and integrity. While unscrupulous companies may attempt to offer short-cuts to students, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure our standards are maintained. Our students, the vast majority of whom do the right thing, deserve nothing less.

Professor Andrew Parfitt

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

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