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Dishonesty — There has been an increase in the number of cases of exam cheating, but according to the deputy director, it is at an »acceptable level«. But this worries one researcher, who calls it »the tip of a larger iceberg of breaches of good scientific practice.«
There were 93 exam cheating cases, with most of them plagiarism cases in 2022. This is according to the latest University of Copenhagen (UCPH) numbers.
To put in context, there were 54 cases of exam cheating at the University of Copenhagen in 2017, while the number was as low as 31 in 2013, according to a previous Freedom of Information request from the news media Information.
»We have more students, more exams, and have got better at finding the cheating,« says Rie Snekkerup, Vice-Provost for Education at the University of Copenhagen.
Exam cheating at UCPH in 2022
Non-permitted co-operation 25
Non-permitted use of assistive devices (including AI): 1
For these reasons, she does not see the increase as a major problem, but something »that is a trifling number«.
»This is an acceptable level for the University of Copenhagen,« she says.
All digital written assignments at the University of Copenhagen are checked for plagiarism by software before the examiner and the co-examiner read and assess them. The examiner and co-examiner may also spot cheating that has not been detected by the software control.
Mads Paludan Goddiksen is a postdoc at the Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen, where he researches different aspects of good scientific practice, and teaches students how to read the exam regulations on a number of degree programmes.
He believes that the many cases of exam cheating are mostly rooted in ignorance among the students, and are not done deliberately. And he is concerned that more students have a lack of understanding of good academic practice.
»The number of exam cheating cases is probably the tip of a larger iceberg of different breaches of good scientific practice,« says Mads Paludan Goddiksen.
If too many students are in breach of what Goddiksen calls good scientific practice, it could be because they simply do not know the rules.
The challenge, according to Mads Paludan Goddiksen, is that part of the students’ teaching focuses too much on a few serious cases, he says, and refers to the fraudulent scientist at the University of Copenhagen Milena Penkowa.
»Now you have to hear about the Penkowa case, and how harshly you will be penalized if you cheat. This may not really be what the students need to know,« he says. They probably need to understand what it means to cheat. Especially in grey areas where the solution is not a foregone conclusion.«
CHEATING 2022 — BY FACULTY
Faculty of Law: 28
Faculty of Humanities: 24
Faculty of Science: 20
Faculty of Social Sciences: 17
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences: 4
Faculty of Theology: 0
Mads Paludan Goddiksen is the lead author on an international study in the journal Ethics & Behavior, which deals with the understanding the rules and norms for good academic practice among bachelor students. The conclusion is that many students cheat without knowing it.
At some point, participants in the study had to assess whether different paraphrases of a section consisting of 41 words were acceptable based on current rules.
The first paraphrases were not actually even paraphrases at all, but a direct copy of the original text without reference. Nevertheless, every fourth participant answered that it was ‘perfectly acceptable’ or ‘acceptable’, in direct contradiction with both Danish and international definitions of plagiarism.
Omnibus, the university news media at Aarhus University, recently reported that Aarhus University is investigating five cases of exam cheating, where there is suspicion of the use of artificial intelligence.
According to Rie Snekkerup, the University of Copenhagen is only aware of two cases of exam cheating using artificial intelligence: A 22/23 winter exam, where the student cheated by using artificial intelligence, and a summer exam from this year, which is currently being processed.
Nevertheless, there may be many more that go undetected, as the software programs that detect this particular type of exam cheating are not adequate.
»We’ve received many inquiries from companies who want to sell us a system, but they’re just not good enough yet. As soon as they are, we will use them,« says Rie Snekkerup.
The fact that there are no more cases of exam cheating using artificial intelligence does not surprise Mads Paludan Goddiksen, who also emphasizes the lack of quality in the software.
If you take a look at the number of exam cheating cases for this year, 2023, things have not changed significantly compared to last year.
The Education and Students section at the University of Copenhagen has so far received 47 cases of suspected exam cheating from the faculties. 34 of these have been concluded with the result that the student had cheated on the exams.
But all faculties have not reported cheating on exams for the summer 2023 exams, the Education and Students section informs the University Post, and the re-exam period in August is still ongoing.
In accordance with the rules on disciplinary measures for students at the University of Copenhagen, it is the head of studies who investigates cases of suspected exam cheating.
If there is suspicion of cheating, the head of studies must provide an account to the dean. If the dean believes that cheating has taken place, the case will be forwarded to the rector, who may either issue a warning, expel the student from the exam, or expel the student from the university either for a set term or permanently. Read the University of Copenhagen’s regulations here (in Danish).