Experts point at the main reasons behind academic dishonesty among the students based on the research. Impossibility to choose subjects, lack of feedback from professors and insufficient technical facilities are among the main reasons that distort academic integrity.
Ten Ukrainian universities took part in the research aimed at discovering the level of academic integrity of students as well as of the factors that affect it. Participants of the discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center spoke about why students resort to academic cheating, how they explain their dishonesty, what is the rationale behind their choice of the university. “In the researched universities positive motivation prevails behind the students’ choice of the university. However, there are cases in which the goal to simply get the diploma competes with the positive motivations [for example, to get knowledge or a good job after graduation – UCMC],” said Yegor Stadnyi, analyst at CEDOS analytical center. Four to 23 per cent of students have chosen their specialization because in such a way they had a chance to have their tuition paid by the state. At the same time, four to 27 per cent claim that they would not choose the same specialization again.
No choice, no interest to study
Among the reasons demotivating the students is the impossibility to choose which subjects to study. “According to the law on higher education, at least 25 per cent of subjects can be optional. It would allow to decrease both the amount of plagiarism and the level of academic dishonesty,” said Lidia Fesenko of the Ukrainian Student Association. Moreover, the research shows that students will not be choosing the easiest ones, as some would expect. “Seventy-three per cent are choosing the subjects that are interesting. Professors often think that students will be choosing easier subjects, but only 17 per cent of respondents confirmed that. Optionality of the subjects also gives a chance to assess the level of professionalism of the professor as well as the content of the academic course itself,” emphasized Taras Tymochko, coordinator of the Project for Promotion of Academic Integrity in Ukraine.
Impossibility to choose the subject is one of the reasons for low academic results. Other reasons include the belief that the knowledge obtained would not be among the skills required for practice in the future. Corruption is not on top of the list.
From cheating to plagiarism
Universities’ technical facilities are often the reason why students get to cheating. Fifty-five per cent of them blame excessive amount of written works. Twenty-one per cent of students list lack of motivation with the professors as one of the reasons for cheating in course of the research.
If first-year students are often led by motivation to get knowledge and become a qualified specialist, it may later become more formalized. “When it comes to academic integrity there needs to be a shift from the general, corporate level to individual practices. What happens in practice is quite the opposite: dishonest practices learnt at school move to higher education. Thus, the practices of plagiarism are equally widespread both with the first- and fourth-year students,” said Olha Huzhva, deputy dean on international cooperation at the Vasyl Karazin Kharkiv National University.
Communication with students
There are universities in which about one half of the students do not understand the assessment mechanism. There is also a certain correlation between how understandable the assessment is and if the professors discuss works with the students. “There are universities in which 20 per cent of students said they are lacking the feedback, no one discusses with them what they wrote in their works, whether it was correct or not,” Stadnyi said.
Not everyone is aware of liability for plagiarism. “There are universities that do not conduct such type of work with their students at all. Sixty eight per cent of students in one of the universities said they are not aware of the sanctions foreseen for plagiarism. As soon as the active information campaign starts, more people become aware of the sanctions as well as will get understanding that they are fair,” Stadny added.