Universities ‘turn a blind eye to online exam cheating’ as studies show cheating rates have risen

Top universities ‘turn a blind eye to online exam cheating’ as studies show cheating rates have risen during pandemic

  • In a survey last week, a sixth of students admitted to asking others for help
  • Cheating techniques have been openly discussed on student forums
  • Despite this, institutions are still planning to offer remote exams next year.

Universities are accused of ignoring growing evidence that online exams lead to cheating.

Numerous studies show that exam cheating rates have increased during the pandemic, including a survey last week where a sixth of students admitted to asking others for help during them. Despite this, institutions are still planning to offer remote exams next year.

Chris McGovern, President of Campaign for Real Education, said: “Online exams are grossly unfair as they encourage and promote cheating over honesty. Any rating system that aids and encourages fraud should be prohibited.

In the Covid crisis, institutions were forced to cancel traditional in-person exams and switch to remote assessments that allowed students to send back answers over a period of 24 or 48 hours or more. Few of them have been monitored, although the technology to do so exists

In the Covid crisis, institutions were forced to cancel traditional in-person exams and switch to remote assessments that allowed students to send back answers over a period of 24 or 48 hours or more. Few of them have been monitored, although the technology to do so exists.

Cheating techniques were openly discussed on student forums.

Minutes of an education committee meeting at University College London (UCL) in October 2021 show that the move to online assessment “appears to have led to a sharp rise in cases of academic misconduct “.

UCL uncovered 57 cases of collusion and 42 cases of ‘contract cheating’ where students used test-mills – companies that allow customers to order writing. The minutes deplore “a significant and worrying expansion” which resulted in the expulsion of 31 students.

Despite this and an acknowledgment that the problem “may be grossly underestimated by the sector”, UCL has decided to persist with online exams in 2021-22, with minutes showing that a return to exams in nobody was rejected due to problems organizing exam halls for 95,000 people in a short time, continued uncertainty over Covid restrictions and fears that any changes would cause “significant student dissatisfaction”. Online exams will continue to be offered by many UCL courses next year.

At Durham University, most exams were online this summer and departments wishing to take in-person exams had to apply for permission. The math department did so after discovering that 46 students had cheated the previous year.

Minutes from an Education Committee meeting at University College London (main building pictured) in October 2021 show that the move to online assessment

Minutes of an education committee meeting at University College London (main building pictured) in October 2021 show that the move to online assessment ‘appears to have led to a sharp rise in cases academic misconduct”

At the University of Nottingham, online exams were the norm in 2021-22, but faculties could request on-campus proctored exams when there was ‘good reason to do so’ – but still had to provide an alternative online to distance students.

Last night, a UCL spokesperson said: ‘Maintaining the highest academic standards is fundamental to ensuring continued confidence in our world-leading research, and in the people who work and study here.’

“As such, students who violate our academic integrity rules face serious penalties, including expulsion from the university.”

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