Exclusive: Auckland University insists cheat detection systems robust amid claims of widespread ghostwriting

Auckland University is reassuring its staff that its systems to detect cheating are robust, following a 1 NEWS investigation into ghostwriting. 

International students say cheating is widespread, and university lecturers have told us it's getting worse.

The message has gone out to all Auckland University staff that safeguards are in place to detect ghostwriting.

"I wanted to reassure you about the processes and controls the university alert us to cheating," University of Auckland Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor John Morrow said in a message to all staff.

It followed claims to 1 NEWS that as many as half the international students at Auckland University are buying other people's work and passing it off as their own.

"I think the way that you have represented this story is inaccurate. I think there is an element of racism in it,"  said Professor Stuart McCutcheon, the university's vice-chancellor.

As universities seek to downplay the problem at their institutions, lecturers have told 1 NEWS many international students cheat because they don't have the proficiency in English to study at that level.


And now there are claims of corruption at some English language schools as well.

There are more than 40 New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved organisations teaching English to international students to get them to the level where they can gain entry to New Zealand universities.

1 NEWS has revealed not all those English language institutions are squeaky clean.

An English language teacher, Alice - not her real name - said she feels "incredibly guilty" because she effectively passed students who shouldn't be passed.

"It's pathetic. They're not ready, nowhere near it," she said.

The qualified teacher with years of experience says two language schools she has worked at recently are a sham.

Students pay $22,000 for a 16-week course.

"It's a money making business," Alice said.

She reported to NZQA a year ago, saying "I was told by the HR person that I must pass these students for the NZCEL because they were due to be enrolled in AUT straight after that."

NZQA declined to comment. 

"I'm seeing students come with a level of probably five or six year olds," Alice said.


Education Minister Chris Hipkins said there's no excuse for any institutions not meeting rigorous academic standards.

"The New Zealand Qualifications Authority investigate those complaints very quickly, and where they're substantiated, very swift action is taken and that has included closing down some providers. We've got no tolerance for that whatsoever," he said.

The language school in question is still operating.

Auckland University's vice-chancellor is confident that caliber of student couldn't slip through the cracks.

"The point is of course that if those students came into this university they would not succeed. The system would catch them out," Professor McCutcheon said.

The university believes its academic integrity is in tact, while some inside it dispute that.

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