THE FIRST weeks at University can be hectic.
There is finding friends, finding a decent takeaway, exploring the world in a number of ways that parents don’t like to acknowledge exist.
IGNORANCE NO EXCUSE
There are also, at most universities, a short bedding-in period when students are given an idea of the academic standards they are supposed to attain.
And one message is hammered home early and hammered home often: plagiarism can seriously mess up your academic future. If you are caught, you face a range of punishments which can include having to re-sit a course module up to expulsion from the University.
Even if you help someone cheat – because that is what plagiarism is, cheating – you can be penalised. The student who helps a friend cheat by letting them copy their submitted work is as guilty as the friend they try to ‘help’.
It’s not as if it’s a great mystery to students that the penalties for cheating are serious. That is spelled out by lecturers, and contained in every single course manual and the student code of conduct.
THE PRESSURE TO PERFORM
The pressure on students to perform can be tough. The increase in the numbers of students attending university has debased the value of a degree to the extent that some overseas universities no longer recognise UK universities’ award of one year Master’s degree, let alone regard undergraduate degrees as the hallmark of academic achievement. That applies to universities across the UK.
Most professions will specify that a 2:1 or better is required at undergraduate level for admission to postgraduate study. Graduate traineeships often specify the same requirement as a minimum.
Teaching, for example, is so desperately keen to recruit the best undergraduates and postgraduates that it offers incentives for those with better honours degrees in select subjects. The determination to shed the ‘those who can’t, teach’ label has created a marketplace in which a first class honours degree in a priority subject – physics, maths, chemistry, Welsh – can access £20K of funding for postgraduate qualification as a teacher. A 2:2 degree in any other subject gets you nothing in additional support.
CHEATING NOT NEW
A minority of students have always cheated, but the use of the internet has created an environment in which cheating has become easier. As higher education has become more accessible so has easy access to any number of shortcuts and back-alley ways to bumping up marks.
Looking at some standalone work-related training modules delivered by private companies, there is solid evidence that not only are the lecturers under-qualified to deliver the course material but that they turn a blind-eye to a culture of cut and paste.
The Herald is aware of one course tutor who actively encouraged one person attending such a course to simply resubmit their undergraduate coursework to gain the qualification they were seeking via the provider employing the tutor.
Self-plagiarism is still plagiarism and it is still cheating. More importantly, the training provider – or rather, the course tutor – was, of course, swindling the employer funding the training.
Does it matter?
Of course it does. In a working world in which employers look at qualifications first, how is the employer meant to distinguish between a qualification gained through GENUINE effort, work, and ability and one gained by a cheating recourse to Control-C followed by Control-V?
Those who get away with it are often smug, but they also liars and – ultimately – frauds.
Essay mills, the last resort of the truly idle cheat, claim to be able to deliver a guaranteed grade in any subject on any topic – for a price.
Essay mills represent cheating on a commercial and contractual scale. An essay mill is a business that allows customers to commission an original piece of writing on a particular topic so that they may commit academic fraud. Students commission others to write their coursework for them through an essay mill in the hope they will attain the grade required.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education said in 2016: “Providers of these services claim that the essays they produce are ‘100 per cent plagiarism free’, but that is a misleading claim. While the essay may not contain any plagiarised text itself, it becomes an act of plagiarism and academic dishonesty once the student submits it for assessment and represents it as his or her own work.
“If students submit work that is not their own, this compromises the fairness of the assessment process and poses a threat to the reputation of UK higher education. There are potentially serious ramifications for the public if people who falsely claim to be competent as a result of an academic award enter a profession and practise.”
In February this year, the UK Government began a consultation with QAA, universities, and the NUS. At that point, the UK Government suggested it was reluctant to go down the legislative route to try and tackle the problem, but in other countries both the provider AND the student would be guilty of a criminal offence.
Such is the scale of the issue across the UK, and not solely in Wales, that QAA has recommended that the advertising of ‘contract cheating’ services be banned and that criminal penalties be put in place for cheating by the use of essay mills. In New Zealand, essay mills have been fined and had their assets frozen.
PLAGIARISM IN WELSH UNIS
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by a Freedom of Information Act request made by BBC Radio Wales.
Figures obtained by the broadcaster showed an increase in cases of alleged plagiarism from 1,370 2013/14 to 2,044 in 2015/16.
The BBC Freedom of Information request disclosed the following over the three academic years 2013/14 to 2015/16
- University of South Wales (approximately 30,000 students): 1,144 students accused of cheating, two prohibited from sitting future exams
- Cardiff Metropolitan University: 565 students accused of cheating, 12 prohibited from sitting future exams
- University of Wales Trinity Saint David – UWTSD: 928 students accused of cheating, 47 prohibited from sitting future exams
- Bangor University: 36 students accused of cheating, four prohibited from sitting future exams
- Cardiff University: 713 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
- Swansea University: 1,157 students accused of cheating, 25 prohibited from sitting future exams
- Wrexham Glyndwr University: 103 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
- Aberystwyth University: 551 students accused of cheating, 0 prohibited from sitting future exams
- The increased detection of plagiarism suggests that universities are becoming more adept at identifying incidents of academic fraud.
Many Universities use software to detect plagiarism, for example Turn-it-in. The software uses a document comparison algorithm that checks papers against a massive database of stored academic papers to identify cheats.
We asked UWTSD to comment on the figures.
Kirsty Williams announces online PGCE
A NEW part-time PGCE that combines online study with tutorials and seminars could soon make Wales a world-leader in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).
The addition of this new alternative route into teaching, announced today by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, is the latest in a series of reforms designed to revolutionise the way ITE is provided in Wales. These also include new full-time ITE programmes.
The new part-time PGCE would provide a high quality alternative to full-time study and remove the need for students to travel just to attend their chosen course.
Students could instead interact with their lecturers and fellow students online, just as they would in the soon-to-be accredited full-time ITE programmes. This would remove any barriers that might be caused by their location or distance from a university.
In addition to the new PGCE, the Education Secretary also announced a new Employment Based Route (EBR), which would see a student teacher employed by a school from the outset. This would be targeted to help regional consortia address teaching shortages in schools region by region.
Both the part-time PGCE and EBR would enable student teachers to maintain their current commitments, including employment and income, whilst studying to be a teacher.
The students would also be able to take advantage of opportunities afforded by Wales’ new student finance arrangements. From the 2018-19 academic year, all Welsh students – whether studying undergraduate full or part time – will receive support for their living costs equivalent to the UK national living wage.
Announcing the changes today, Kirsty Williams said: “An education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and our new curriculum cannot be delivered without a well-supported, aspirational teaching profession.
“The new part-time PGCE has the potential to completely transform the way Initial Teacher Education in Wales is delivered, complementing our equally high quality full-time ITE programmes.
“New students who may previously never have considered a career in teaching or been put off by costs or their location will have access to an academic qualification and programme that is of the very highest standard while also being flexible and easily accessible.
“It’s by harnessing technology in this way that we’ll attract highly-talented, experienced people with the higher level skills needed by both the teaching profession and our wider economy.
“I am confident that along with the step change in our soon to be accredited full-time ITE programmes the new part-time PGCE and EBR, together with new Professional Standards for teaching and accreditation criteria for initial teacher education, will allow us to raise standards across the board and make Wales a world-leader.”
The Education Secretary also confirmed today that an HE provider, or partnership of providers, will be procured to deliver the proposals by working with schools and education consortia across Wales.
Yale to unlock students’ potential
THIS summer, 16 of Wales’ brightest sixth-formers will join students from across the world for a life-changing summer programme held at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.
The pupils, all part of the Seren Network, will join over 1500 other students from 126 countries and 50 US states on Yale’s Young Global Scholars Programme (YYGS), at Yale University’s New Haven campus in the US, as part a new scholarship opportunity made possible through the Seren Network.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, will join the first group of pupils from Wales to travel to Yale’s New Haven campus as she looks to build on links already made with the university through Seren.
The Education Secretary will also travel to both Harvard University and MIT in Boston to discuss new opportunities and collaborations.
This opportunity has been made available to Welsh students thanks to a jointly funded scholarship between Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) and the Welsh Government. The flight costs have been supported through sponsorship by businesses in Wales who are all rooting for the Welsh students.
The students will each spend two weeks at Yale’s New Haven campus, where they will take part in a rigorous academic programme led by world-leading academics in one of six areas, including International Affairs & Security, Frontiers of Science & Technology and Politics, Law & Economics.
The partnership has been established to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students, giving them a taste of university life in the States and the opportunity to make strong university applications when they return.
Kirsty Williams said: “It is a huge success story for Seren that we’ve been able to broker a partnership which will see Yale’s renowned Young Global Scholars programme made accessible to students across Wales.
“I’m proud to be joining our first ever group of students to take part in this life-changing summer programme and look forward to making new links with other universities as we try to open new doors for many more of our students.
“I want every pupil in every school in every part of Wales to know that if you work hard then no academic opportunity is off-limits. I think this is a perfect example of what is possible and I want to thank all the sponsors involved in making this happen.”
This partnership has been made possible through Liam Rahman, a Yale University alumnus born and raised in Carmarthenshire. A Co-Director at E-Qual Recruitment Education in Cardiff and West Wales, Liam is an avid supporter of The Seren Network and has been the driving force throughout the partnership. E-Qual Recruitment Education is a headline sponsor of the partnership, having raised in excess of £10,000 to fund the cost of students’ flights to and from the US.
Liam said: “Since returning to Wales last year, it’s been a real privilege to work with high potential Welsh students through the Seren Network and to be an interviewer for Yale’s Undergraduate Admissions Office in Wales through Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee.
“Over the past few months, I’ve worked to build the relationship between Yale Young Global Scholars and The Seren Network, which has culminated in this fantastic partnership and scholarship opportunity.
“This scholarship will deliver life-changing opportunities to some of Wales’s brightest sixth formers and gives Yale the opportunity to access some of Wales’s very best talent.”
Adult learning: Richard’s story
UWTSD has marked Adult Learners’ Week by encouraging its mature students to tell their own stories.
Richard Thomas, a single father of three, graduated last summer with a degree in Sports Therapy.
He recently spoke to UWTSD about his transformational journey from gardener to Sports Therapist:
“In the summer of 2014 I was working as a Gardener and handyman in the quiet village of Bancyfelin. I didn’t see it as a long term career and with three children and no partner, I felt I needed a better career direction so I started to look at returning to education. After realising that UWTSD offered a degree in Sports Therapy I decided this was the area that I really wanted to learn more about.
“I immediately loved the course description – having been passionate about sport, fitness, Crossfit and having also had many sporting injuries in the past – I felt that this course would be fascinating to follow. Because of my family commitments, I wasn’t able to travel long distances to study so the fact that the Sports Therapy course was available to me in Carmarthen was great too! I had no idea of how I was going to work, study and juggle my boys’ commitments too and I can’t deny that there were times during the course where I found it difficult – but those hard times were definitely worth it!
“Following this course has not only helped me to learn about a new profession and to embark on a new career that I’m very passionate about – it has also helped me grow as a person. The course set me academic challenges as well as challenging me to manage my time and to fit in work, study and raising three boys as a single father.
“The course was full of work experiences and volunteer opportunities and by the end of the course, I felt prepared to face the world of work because of those opportunities.
“This past year – the first year after graduation – has been tough but it would have been even more difficult if it hadn’t been for the experience and connections that I made during my time on the course.
“During my studies, I was lucky enough to work with the Welsh Under 20’s Rugby team; the Dragons; Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey; Swansea City FC as well as Bristol City FC – not forgetting the various events that we covered such as the Swansea Triathlon, The Burn, Invncbl and some epic Charity cycle rides.
“Since graduating, I’m really lucky that the list of organisations and events I’m working with continues to grow. I now work with the FAW and the Under 15’s Welsh Girls Football team; Whitland RFC and I have a role with Hockey Wales too. I also work with Gower College Rugby, Llanelli and District Schoolboys Under 15’s and the successful Rugby Sevens team, the Carmarthen Warriors. Alongside this work I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a Hip and Groin Testing team – which I initially started doing during my time on the course – but I’m now also been working with Swansea City as part of their testing team as well as the IRFU as part of their ongoing Injury reduction strategies.
“I am currently still trying to manage my time but am enjoying the challenge. Indeed, enrolling on this course was easily one of the best decisions of my life. It’s helped me immeasurably – not just academically and career wise – but it’s also made a huge difference to me on a personal level. I’ve met friends that I’ll have for life and I managed to complete a BSc degree – something that for many years would have felt impossible.
“I am the first person in my family in living knowledge to complete a degree and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby at my graduation ceremony. Receiving an award for my academic work was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. The fact that I’ve achieved something that I previously didn’t really believe I could, has helped me to raise my own expectations and has allowed me to really expanded my horizons – both career wise and personally. It’s also had a great positive effect on my children – the eldest of whom is now going to University this year.”
As the only Sports Therapy degree in Wales accredited by the Society of Sports Therapy, the BSc Sports Therapy degree programme is designed to educate competent practitioners in all aspects of Sports Therapy. During their time on the course, students learn in a practical setting with plenty of hands on teaching in a dedicated Sports Therapy Suite and Rehabilitation Centre. All teaching staff are experienced Graduate Sports Therapists who have worked in professional, semi-professional, national and international sports over a number of years.
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