A New Zealand university lecturer says ghostwriting has become so common that half the international students in their class have been failed for cheating.
The latest development in an ongoing 1 NEWS investigation has now triggered a claim universities are turning a blind eye to widespread cheating.
1 NEWS has chosen not to name the lecturer, or the university they work for, in order to protect their career. But they say New Zealand universities are sacrificing academic integrity for the millions of dollars international students bring in.
“Management are extremely naive and out of touch if they think that this doesn’t go on in their institutions,” they said.
After a week of refusing requests to appear on camera, universities are playing down the problem of ghostwriting.
“Rather than talking to Television New Zealand, they should be raising it through the systems in the universities,” said Derek Cormack, chairman of Universities NZ, the entity which describes itself as the sector voice for all eight universities.
But the lecturer said they’ve raised the issue with their university repeatedly and been ignored, while the problem gets worse.
“I’ve signalled for some years now that we have a serious problem, only to be ignored while the problem grows,” they said. “In my view it seems easier to take international students’ money than address the prolific cheating that occurs, it’s both unethical and immoral.”
CAN BARELY WRITE
According to the lecturer, half their classes are international students.
“They can barely write a paragraph in English. The quality of the general work they hand in is absolutely appalling.
“They’re paying anywhere from $30,000-$50,000 a year to study here, so from a student’s perspective it’s natural to expect that they will be awarded a degree. Higher education has become a simple commercial transaction. Pay the money, pass the paper.”
The lecturer said students swear they’re not cheating, but when confronted, clam up, threaten self-harm or have even said they’ll accuse the lecturer of racism.
Last week a number of international students admitted to 1 NEWS they employ ghostwriters. They claim cheating is widespread.
But universities disagree.
“What I do know is that the universities are very alert to cheating, all the forms of cheating we know about. We do everything we can to prevent that,” Mr McCormack said.
Another lecturer, whose identity 1 NEWS has also chosen to withhold, said final exam results among international students are often so low, university management strongly encourages them to bump up marks to improve the overall pass rate.
MINISTER URGES ACTION
Education Minister Chris Hipkins says universities need to get to the bottom of all cheating allegations.
“My expectation is that the universities will take it very seriously, that they will step in, that they will step up and that they will make sure that any ghostwriting or any allegations of cheating are thoroughly investigated and any of that practice is well and truly stamped out.”
International students contribute $4.6bn to our economy each year.
“That money is so important to universities and that’s why they are in no hurry to look for any problems that would undermine that income stream,” the lecturer said.
But Universities NZ described that claim as “rubbish”.
“The suggestion of that is just rubbish, our academic integrity stands tall,” Mr McCormack said.
While the lecturer is joining union calls for a sector-wide review, the universities say that isn’t necessary.