TGAP proves futile in attempt to stamp out academic misconduct

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The Training in Good Academic Practice (TGAP) initiative has made no positive impact on the levels of academic misconduct at the University, according to figures acquired by The Saint.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that in the academic year 2012/13 – before the TGAP was introduced last year – 84 under- graduate students were accused of academic misconduct, with 77 found guilty. A further 19 postgraduate students were suspected of misconduct, 17 of whom were deemed guilty.

At the beginning of the academic year 2013/14, a new policy on academic misconduct was introduced, leading to the foundation of the TGAP. The programme required all students to complete a course in a bid to reduce the number of cases of academic misconduct.

However, despite hopes for the initiative, TGAP has failed to curb academic misconduct. In the academic year 2013/14, 160 undergraduate students were accused of academic misconduct. 76 of those were issued written warnings about their misconduct while a further 84 were disciplined – 15 by a University wide board and 69 by School boards.

Accounting for the fact that written warnings were not recorded in previous years, the figure of 84 disciplinary cases reveals a slight increase. 74 cases of academic misconduct were recorded in 2010/11, a figure which rose to 77 the following year.

Dean of Science, Professor Al Dearle, said he was disappointed with the results but hopes that the figures will improve as education on misconduct becomes more ingrained into University life. “Time will tell”, he said, with regards to the TGAP’s effectiveness, adding: “The jury’s out.”

Professor Dearle emphasised that the new policy is “more robust, stricter. But I still think it’s fair.” He ultimately aims to eradicate academic misconduct completely and remains optimistic that the TGAP will prove effective in years to come.

For the Dean of Science, the priority is that every student learns what academic misconduct is and the severe consequences it can have. He said: “You shouldn’t punish people for things they haven’t been taught about.”

This year, the TGAP was taken a stage further as it became a part of the matriculation process. It was also developed into three different courses, for undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research postgraduates respectively.

When introduced at the beginning of the last academic year, the TGAP sparked resentment amongst students who felt their time was being wasted on what seemed like common sense. The undergraduate course consists of eight section quizzes and a final assessment; covering the areas of plagiarism, falsification, false citation, multiple submission, academic misconduct in exams or class tests, aiding and abetting, coercion and contract cheating. Students need to score at least 90 per cent on the final assessment to pass the course.

The University uses Turnitin software to check all coursework for originality. However, most academic misconduct is picked up through academic judgement – “humans” are the primary source of detection, explained Professor Dearle.

The original FOI request submitted by The Saint stated that in the academic year 2013/14, 151 undergraduate students were accused of academic misconduct and 137 were found guilty. These figures were updated by Professor Dearle.

The FOI response explained the apparent rise in figures, suggesting: “The figures provided demonstrate that instances where disciplinary action has had to be taken for academic related issues represents 2 per cent or less of the overall student population. “The rise in the number of reported cases in 2013/14 can be attributed to changes in detection and reporting procedures that have been introduced during the reporting period. The University believes that the actual incidence of academic misconduct has fallen and continues to fall as awareness amongst students increases and detection improves.”


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