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For example, in the UK, national guidelines and recommendations have included the need to: ‘establish a cross-institutional group or committee, supported by senior management, involving representatives from all faculties … and student representation with a remit from promoting academic integrity across the institution …and reviewing the policy and related guidance’ (HEA, The implication here is that this kind of oversight can involve bringing together and building on the variety of measures and educational activities in place to provide a coherent institutional approach that is relevant to contemporary concerns.This raises the question of how in higher education we might respond.
However, recent studies have revealed the complex nature of contract cheating, with a relatively low proportion of students engaging in outsourcing behaviours involving a third party.
This paper focuses on how universities and colleges can respond to this emergent concern, and proposes that institutions extend and establish strategies to embed the values, principles and practices aligned to academic integrity.
Staff should be role models to students.’ (Exemplary Academic Integrity Project, ) and be positioned by a central academic integrity office (or equivalent), so that the policy (and any associated changes from a review process) can have an impact on addressing misconduct.
Findings from a recent survey of staff working in Australian universities has pointed to the value of policy, with a relatively high proportion of staff (51%) agreeing that policies and processes help to minimise contract cheating (Harper et al., ).
elevates the seriousness of contract cheating above what would normally apply to a case of plagiarism. should be suspension or expulsion’ (QAA, Harper and her colleagues (2018) report on the main types of penalties for cases of contract cheating as identified through a survey of staff at Australian universities.
These included a range of responses from not knowing (28%), a warning or counselling (42%), a reduced mark (28%), resubmission (27%) and zero awarded for the assignment (37%), with only a minority of staff indicating that the penalty of suspension or exclusion/expulsion were applied (4% and 2% respectively).By drawing on recent work that has enhanced our understanding of the issue of contract cheating, higher education institutions can focus on continuing to develop institutional strategy for academic integrity.This paper identifies five considerations for universities and colleges that are particularly relevant to this endeavour, including how the issue of contract cheating can be addressed: determining academic integrity strategy; reviewing institutional policy; understanding students; re-visiting assessment practices; and implications for staff professional development.These researchers urge that for cases of contract cheating penalties should be ‘of an appropriate severity if they are to serve as disincentives for students to engage in this behaviour’ (Harper et al., , p. Institutional guidance may also need to be revised to address a potential concern for students: what are they to do if they suspect or have evidence of a peer or group of peers engaging in contract cheating?From the perspective of the student, this could be a difficult dilemma (the peer may be a friend or flat mate).To determine priority areas for development, this process can be accompanied by an institutional review of associated resources and activity, such as materials for student induction, forums for academic integrity champions, or toolkits for academic staff on designing assessment.A wealth of resources to support a process of review and implementation of policy and procedures are available for universities and colleges, including a conceptual framework, good practice recommendations and tools). Based on an extensive analysis of institutional policies, Bretag and her colleagues recommended that one of the core elements of exemplary policy, specified as ‘Approach’, should not only frame academic integrity in terms of an ‘educative process’, but that: This is pertinent to all forms of student academic misconduct, including contract cheating.Through the regular review of policy, universities and colleges can make sure that there is detail available on all forms of student academic misconduct, in which a ‘definition for each needs to be clear with a range of realistic examples that take into account the varied forms of assessment used within different discipline areas’ (HEA, , p. Policy frameworks should also include guidance and tools to support decision-making in determining appropriate penalties.There have long been concerns about the consistency of procedure in managing cases of student academic misconduct, particularly with regard to decision making in determining the seriousness of a breach and the associated penalty (e.g.For example, questions could be asked about how the institution’s teaching, learning and assessment strategy is connected to the academic integrity or student academic misconduct policy, or how visible and accessible this policy is for all stakeholders, including students and the range of staff roles.Morris and Carroll () have pointed to the need for stakeholders to appreciate that typically, there are no straightforward solutions in responding to academic integrity issues.