Central to 1 NEWS’ investigation into the phenomenon of ghostwriting, international students have admitted to us they use ghostwriters to write their essays, claiming the problem is widespread in New Zealand universities.
Their stories have been backed up by university lecturers who say the problem is serious and growing. Those lecturers say universities are reluctant to address the problem due to the large sums of money international students pay in fees to the institutions.
The international students who’ve admitted they use ghostwriters tell us they do so because of the pressure on them to succeed and obtain a New Zealand degree.
The university lecturers who’ve spoken to 1 NEWS say the students who cheat have a poor grasp of the English language and are left with no other option but to cheat in order to pass papers. They question whether those students are fit to study at an English speaking tertiary institution.
Universities New Zealand, the umbrella organisation representing all eight universities in the country, has hit back saying the prevalence of ghostwriting here is no greater than overseas and does not represent any threat to their academic integrity.
The organisation says universities employ a number of measures to mitigate the risk of cheating.
Below are some of the universities’ responses.
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON
Victoria University of Wellington has comparatively few incidences of serious academic misconduct that includes cheating in examinations as well as plagiarism.
This is the result of having varied styles of assessment, including a relatively high proportion of courses and programmes being assessed under supervision—through examinations, laboratory tests and internal class tests. Other assessments such as those based on lecture content can potentially limit the ability of ghost writers to be as effective.
Additionally, assessments that are managed through progressive feedback or "scaffolding" are options that can be utilised to mitigate cheating activity. Victoria University of Wellington also uses monitoring tools such as Turnitin https://www.turnitin.com/ to detect plagiarism. Student grades are monitored to detect and investigate any unexpected results helped by robust internal university moderation processes.
Victoria University of Wellington is proud to have a culture where staff work closely with students to ensure everyone in the community is committed to protecting the integrity and reputation of the assessment process.
UNIVERSITY OF CANTERBURY
Cheating and academic dishonesty are not tolerated at UC. Academic integrity is one of the cornerstones of being a successful student, and breaching academic integrity can lead to serious consequences, including exclusion from the university.
If UC students need support with academic writing, the Academic Skills Centre | Pokapū Pūkenga Ako can help. They offer services and resources that focus on academic writing and strategies to support student success.
UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND
- The compulsory Academic Integrity Course for all students, which among other things makes it very clear what is expected from them in terms of academic honesty.
- Investment in technology systems to detect plagiarism (which also helps to detect some ghost-written content), reflected in the extensive use of turnitin.
- An assessment policy that ensures that all Stage 1 courses require an exam worth at least 50 percent of the final grade, with many courses having additional tests in exam-like conditions.
- Work with peer-group universities in New Zealand and around the world to share best practice and educate our staff on the tell-tale behavioural patterns of students who may be engaged in cheating.
In addition, as we know there are unique challenges and pressures faced by international students who are studying away from their usual support networks (and sometimes in a second language), the University provides a range of support services to help build their confidence. These services include English Language support
UNIVERSITY OF WAIKATO
At Waikato, we are tackling the issue by providing robust academic support services to try to prevent cheating, and taking comprehensive action whenever cheating is suspected.
- International students have access to support services including the Student Learning team, which supports academic learning needs.
- Pastoral care and additional advice and support is provided by International Student Services, and these staff can support international students in accessing appropriate academic and language support services.
- Pathways College students are closely guided and supported in both English language and academic skills, which extends to students’ transition into university-level study.