International student reputation dragged through the mud, says NZISA

May 22, 2019

International student reputation dragged through the mud, says NZISA

Universities say ghost-writing allegations are alleged and have tools in place to prevent cheating. Photo: Vanessa Shaw

The New Zealand International Students' Association is disappointed by recent allegations claiming widespread cheating among Chinese international students.

This follows recent allegations in a TVNZ story that cheating is widespread among Chinese international students from the University of Auckland.

NZISA Education officer Umi Asaka said in a statement that she is disappointed in the portrayal of international students in the TVNZ article.

"It is so outrageous that they can call half of us cheaters not knowing all the hard work we put in and barriers that we have to jump through."

Neyra Rong Nie, President of the New Zealand Chinese Student Association, said in a statement that NZCSA condemns all cheating behaviour.

"How can the voice of three students be counted as evidence for an alleged systemic problem? There is no evidence that it is widespread in the Chinese Students' Association."

Lisa Finucane, head of communications at the University of Auckland said that recent claims in the media about Chinese international students' 'ghost-writing' essays are alleged numbers.

"Neither the Chinese Students Association nor the University has evidence or even a belief that the numbers of [Chinese] students using 'ghost-writers' is of the scale alleged by an undetermined number of students quoted in recent media reports."

Ms Finucane said that there is no indication that the figures were accurate and anything more than hearsay.

"While there is evidence that cheating is widespread in the universities, we do have many procedures and policies that would make it unlikely."

Ms Finucane said the University of Auckland's entry requirements include an English language requirement to ensure students can understand tutorials and lectures in English.

"We acknowledge the challenge and pressure international students face in studying away from their usual support networks and sometimes in a second language.

“As such, we provide learning support to all students…and we're clear about expectations as how we will support students to succeed. This includes, among other things, International Student Support and English language support."

But the University of Auckland is concerned about any cheating that might occur, and there are resources in place to prevent it from happening, Ms Finucane said.

"We work with benchmark institutions to share practice and educate our staff around the behavioural patterns of students who may be engaged in this activity."

All students must undertake a compulsory academic integrity course.

Both the University of Auckland and AUT use plagiarism detection software Turnitin.com, which all written assignments are put through. This technology does not detect ghost-writing.

However, Ms Finucane said ghost-writing is identified by academic staff who see an inconsistent performance in student's assignments, projects and examinations.

The University of Auckland has an assessment policy that ensures all stage one courses require an exam worth at least 50 per cent of the final grade.

"Students who had used others to write their essays or projects would obviously be disadvantaged in such examinations because they would not have the experience of writing their own material."

The university performs additional checks where a student's performance in the exam conditions and the performance for other assessment types is significantly different.

AUT’s head of communications Alison Sykora said the university had measures in place to ensure students do not cheat.

Ms Sykora said the vast majority of students attend university to gain an education, not to cheat.

"Like universities around the world, we are concerned about any form of cheating and make it clear to our students that there are consequences.

"Academic discipline figures over the last few years show a decline in the number of students who have cheated by plagiarising, which includes 'ghost-written' essays. In 2017, just under 0.15 per cent of students were found to be plagiarising work."

"AUT is currently working on a trial where anyone going to an identified 'ghost-writing' website - Fortinet has a database of these - from an AUT computer receives a warning message reminding them that cheating can lead to expulsion and directing them to online library resources on how to get assistance if they are struggling to complete their assignment."

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