Shocking Numbers for Britain’s Educational Sector Revealed by Newspaper Research

Britain is acclaimed for its outstanding educational institutions. Among them, top universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Thousands of international students are seeking to attend reputable British higher education institutions each year.

This week, however, education experts in Britain ring alarm bells for Britain’s well-known education standard. Shocking numbers have been released by the British newspaper The Guardian.

The newspaper published a research on 24 of Britain’s leading educational institutions – including the renowned universities Oxford and Cambridge – and found that academic misconduct had increased by 40 percent within the last three years.

The Guardian reports that “experts have expressed concern about the findings and are “warning that institutions are ignoring the problem.”

Degrading quality of degrees

According to Thomas Lancaster, a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London who was quoted by The Guardian, reasons for the surge of academic misconduct might root in the increasing performance pressure for students.

To counter the stress of students’ academic performance, ghostwriters and writing services offer attractive deals and an easy way out of the anxiousness. Experts have long recognized the problem of essay mills and their intensive marketing strategies. They even visit university campuses and advertise their services to students on site.

One of our previous blog posts discusses the impact of paper mills. You can read about it here.

The Guardian quotes a member of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), Ian Kimber, who said that the growing amount of cheaters are threatening the reputation of higher education in the United Kingdom.

“Our guidance for universities and colleges, published last year, offers practical advice on detecting and addressing contract cheating,” he said “But it’s clear that there is more work to be done.

Plagiarism plays a major role in academic misconduct

Not only lazy students plagiarize, but also ambitious ones, who go above and beyond to achieve their desired grades. Even if students refrain from costly writing services, many simply copy and paste content from foreign sources without giving proper credit or even pretend the stolen content to be their own.

“Plagiarism prevention and detection is a complex task to master,” said PlagScan CEO Markus Goldbach. “Simply using a plagiarism software can be an integral part to assure the quality of education.”  

First of all, the awareness of a plagiarism detection software being used at an institution discourages students from copying. This would significantly reduce the temptation of cheating in the first place.  

Secondly, a plagiarism software is able to check hundreds of documents simultaneously for duplicates in no time. The working hours of teachers and professors would not be taken up, which enables them to focus on the actual content of papers.

Lastly, a software treats all papers equally and creates a standardized investigation for all students. A standard helps to define academic misconduct and to educate students about it in a consistent manner.

“Introducing a fair standard where all work is being analyzed for plagiarism is the way to go,” said Goldbach.

But how to detect ghostwriting?

According to Goldbach, the detection of ghostwriting is a next-level problem. In order to identify whether or not a student has submitted a text written by someone else, the person’s writing style has to be identified and stored for comparison. A specified artificial intelligence for writing styles would be able to tell, whether a document fits the student’s writing style or not.

“It certainly raises some data protection questions, which need to be solved first, but we’re at PlagScan are looking into this procedure and have started working on possible solutions,” he said.

Before the problem of ghostwriting can be effectively targeted, educational institutions can start to make use of regular plagiarism software and thus provide a quick remedy.

“So many highly reputable people have already been caught with plagiarizing their Ph.D.s. Reputation suffers on a large scale as well as on an individual level. We could tackle the problem before it occurs.”

About Cati Mayer

Cati is a communications manager and passionate writer. She grew up in Germany, finished her studies in communications and media studies, journalism and public relations in the United States and is now an advocate for human rights, particularly education. She has been involved with multiple Silicon Valley startups.

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