More than 3,000 Leeds students have been caught cheating in exams and coursework over the last five years, new figures show, as technological devices like smartwatches and online “essay mills” make it easier than ever.
Some universities in the city have seen an increase in the number of students cheating in exams and coursework, with figures as high as 547 a year.
And as exam season comes to a close, figures show that mobile phones and plagiarism are among the main ways for students to cheat.
Now universities, including Leeds Beckett, have revealed they are cracking down on the problem, with new measures being put in place to tackle the use of Bluetooth headsets and hidden wires in exams, alongside a text-matching service to detect online plagiarism.
The figures obtained by the Yorkshire Evening Post under the freedom of information act show that cheating is most prevalent in coursework - in the last five years a total of 3,248 students in Leeds were caught-out - with plagiarism listed as the main factor.
The figures were significantly lower when it came to exams - 69 cheated - where mobile phones caused the most problems, with devices ringing in exams and students caught using them or having them in their possession.
A spokesperson for vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK, which represents all three of the city’s universities, said: “Universities take plagiarism and cheating extremely seriously.
Submitting work written by someone else is cheating and devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve their degrees.
“Universities have severe penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own. Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution’s disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university.
“With information now so readily available online, it has become increasingly important to engage with students from day-one to underline the implications of cheating and how it can be avoided. University support services are also there to help vulnerable students struggling with anxiety and stress around coursework and deadlines.
“The higher education sector has already done a lot of work in this area and universities have become more experienced in detecting and dealing with such forms of cheating.”
It comes as the Government continues to crack down on the use of essay mills- which custom-write work for students for payment - by proposing tough penalties on those who use them.
Leeds Beckett recorded the highest figure out of the city’s three universities, when it came to students cheating in coursework, with 2,260 caught out since 2012, the figure rising steadily each year.
The university says it is cracking down on the problem and employs a text-matching service to match students’ work with online sources in an effort to tackle website plagiarism.
It also provides guidance and a range of resources to all students to educate them about good academic practice.
A university spokesperson said: “This includes a module on academic integrity available to all students, and students with an admitted or found case of unfair practice are advised to undertake the module to improve their understanding and avoid future offences.
“We have a robust system for investigating suspected cases of unfair practice and considering admitted or found cases in place, to ensure that instances of cheating, plagiarism and other forms of unfair practice are kept to a minimum.”
The university also uses a number of plagiarism detection tools, including text-matching software.
The spokesperson added: “We have not seen a significant increase in the number of proven cases of plagiarism or cheating in recent years and continue to work closely with our students to ensure they place pride in their work and achievements.
““We take all incidents of cheating, plagiarism and other forms of unfair practice extremely seriously. Maintaining the academic integrity of our awards and safeguarding against unfair practice is very important to us.”
The University of Leeds recorded the highest number of students cheating in exams during the same period, with 37 caught out.
A spokesperson for the university said: “Leeds is one of the largest universities in Yorkshire and the figures here represent a tiny minority of our students. We take academic integrity extremely seriously and have robust policies in place to educate students about good academic practice. All cases of suspected academic malpractice are thoroughly investigated, and additionally we have improved our processes for collecting information about cases, and that is reflected in these figures.”