An investigation conducted by The Times has revealed that Oxford students have been found to have cheated over 20 times more than Cambridge students in University examinations or submitted work.
In the period 2012 to 2015, 109 Oxford students were found to have committed 109 offences, data released by the University shows after a Times Freedom of Information request. In comparison, only five such cases were uncovered at Cambridge.
The most common offences nationwide were continuing to write after time was up, and reading the question paper before the examination had begun.
Nationally, nearly 50,000 students were found to have cheated, in the investigation published last month, with Oxford Brookes ranked fifth for highest cheating rate, with 1,711 reported offences in the last three years.
The University of Kent’s incidence of academic misconduct is the highest nationally, with 1,947 cases, with the revelations raising questions as to possible large disparities between the rigour in detecting cheating across different universities.
In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for the University of Oxford stated, “The close supervision of students through Oxford’s intensive teaching system makes it particularly difficult for students to cheat by, for example, passing off the work of others as their own.”
She added that the University is “confident its processes for identifying, investigating and holding students to account for academic misconduct are thorough and rigorous.”
Universities aside from Oxford and Cambridge reported more cases of plagiarism in the form of using essay-writing services, with more submitted work and coursework counting towards the final degree than at Oxbridge.
Professor Geoffrey Alderman at the University of Buckingham told The Times that “type-1 plagiarism,” copying and pasting, is decreasing because it’s “so easy to detect,” adding, “My impression is that type-2 cheating, using a bespoke essay-writing service, is increasing.” These services can reportedly charge hundreds of pounds for dissertations, essays and model exam answers written by professional lecturers up to doctorate level.
The investigation also found that non-EU students cheated disproportionately, with 35 per cent of all cases being from students from outside the EU, despite representing 12 per cent of the UK student population.
Across the country, there were five detected cases of students arranging for someone else to sit their exam in their place.
A significant number of incidents involved students going to the lavatory during examinations, with one University of Exeter student being investigated after a “long toilet break where student did not use most convenient toilet”.
Of the nearly 50,000 academic cheating incidences in the UK from 2012, one per cent resulted in the dismissal of a student from the institution.
Responding to the Cambridge Student’s article on this story, OUSU Vice-President for Graduates Nick Cooper commented, “Unlike Oxford’s excellent student journalism, the Cambridge Student headline raises some questions – comparing our 109 reports of plagiarism with Cambridge’s five convictions may be a little naughty. But it may also be an issue of definitions: until recently, plagiarism in Oxford’s rules was very broad (ranging from an accidental failure to cite one study, to full-blown copying) and we’re pleased that with OUSU support, Oxford updated its procedure last year to reflect this sliding scale.
“However we remain concerned that colleges and departments aren’t doing enough to ensure students are aware of good academic practice and what constitutes ‘plagiarism’. This is especially the case for graduate students who have studied elsewhere with more emphasis on collaborative work, who may end up breaking plagiarism rules entirely unknowingly.”
The University of Cambridge has not replied to media requests for comment.