Record number of Oxford students found guilty of plagiarism

53 students were reported for copying work without acknowledgement last year

Photo: Soham Banerjee/Flickr

A record number of Oxford students were found guilty of ‘academic misconduct’ last year, new data has revealed.

There were 57 reported cases in the proctorial year 2017-18, of which 53 were for plagiarism.

The figure reflects an increase of 47% from 2016-17.

The rise in cases comes despite the University warning students they could face expulsion if caught copying others’ work without acknowledgement.

In the senior proctor’s annual oration, the outgoing holder of the role, Dr Edward Bispham, said that there had been steady increase in “reports of plagiarism and collusion, which are concentrated in particular parts of the University.”

While Dr Bispham did not elaborate upon that claim, in 2011, the senior proctor said: “The great majority of [plagiarism] cases come from international students at the Saïd Business School.”

Details of the four cases of academic misconduct that did not fall under plagiarism were not given.

In October, government watchdog, the Quality and Assurance Agency for Higher Education, published a guide for universities outlining how they could fight a rise in “pernicious” cheating, and encouraging the use of increasingly sophisticated technology.

Legal expert and the bursar of New College, David Palfreyman, said the majority of cases involved international students taking postgraduate degrees. He told the Daily Mail: “A lot of people on these courses have a lot at stake, and might be tempted to cheat because they are paying the full fees.”

In 2009, the senior proctor revealed that one student had plagiarised almost half of their final-year project. “[It] contained some twenty-nine pages out of sixty-five that had been copied verbatim from a previous year’s report,” he said. “Admittedly they had been carefully retyped using a different typeface.”

Proctorial years run from 9th week of Hilary Term to 8th week of the following Hilary.


  1. Devil’s advocate question here: How do we know that the actual rate of cheating has gone up as opposed to the reported rate? While the graph shows that the reported rates started going up around the time the tuition fees went up to £9000, could it just be that over the last few years the university has just got better at catching cheats?

    It isn’t impossible that if students are viewing their degrees as a comodity rather than a public good in view of the fees, that this pushes up the cheating rate due to a small numer of students thinking that they ought to be given a degree since they had to pay for it (fwiw I think this explains much of the rise at first), but it would be nice to have more definite proof. Particularly as the article seems to imply that the government has advised universities to use better anti-cheating technology, so maybe it’s just easier to catch it now than it was a few years ago…


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