The Good Practice Note: Addressing contract cheating to safeguard academic integrity is the first in a series of materials to assist providers in ensuring quality assurance, and help them meet the requirements of the recently updated Higher Education Standards Framework.
“We’ve been engaged with this very specifically since 2015 when there was the first documentary about the MyMaster site, and really threw the spotlight on contract cheating,” TEQSA chief executive Anthony McClaran said.
At the time, a Fairfax Media investigation into MyMaster, a website providing paid services including assignment writing and the completion of online exams which targeted international students, resulted in the revocation of at least two students’ degrees and implicated a further thousand.
McClaran told The PIE News after the reports, TEQSA undertook an overview of universities’ responses to the concerns raised, and while the new standards framework was not a direct response, it was a factor taken into consideration.
“We are obviously aware of the problem and the need to be seen to address this and to help providers address it as effectively as possible,” he said.
“Threats to academic integrity really undermine the key currency of higher education, which is trust in qualifications and trust in the learning that people have undertaken.”
6% of the 15,000 participants admitted to some form of cheating
The Good Practice Note, which was developed in partnership with academic integrity expert associate professor Tracey Bretag and took influence from materials created by other countries’ regulatory bodies, provides guidance on five key areas.
Areas include policies to promote academic integrity, policies and procedures to address breaches, actions to mitigate risks, the provision of academic integrity guidance, good practices to maintain academic integrity.
Aligning Australia’s best practice with international standards was a deliberate move, according to McClaran.
“This is an international issue,” he said, adding the document will be discussed during an upcoming meeting of six quality assurance and regulatory agencies around the world.
“Cheating services and contract cheating services are offered across national boundaries and… students, of course, move between providers and between countries. Therefore, confidence in the integrity of their qualifications is important in guaranteeing they can progress and move across national boundaries.”
Bretag said the development of the Good Practice Note drew from a recent survey in which 6% of the 15,000 participants admitted to some form of cheating, and 68% of academic staff indicated they’d come across instances of suspected cheating.
“It does not purport to deliver an immediate solution to the problem but aims to provide a stimulus for reflection and a call to action, both in our own institutions and as part of a sector-wide collaboration,” she said.
Recently, there have been several instances of academic fraud by international students, with four chinese students arrested in the US after cheating on an ETS TOEFL test earlier this year.