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SFU disciplines more cheating students than UBC, survey says

Simon Fraser University is punishing over 10 times more students for academic dishonesty than the University of British Columbia, according to a recent CBC survey.

More than 500 students disciplined for academic dishonesty at SFU, only 36 at UBC, between 2011-2012

CBC survey found SFU had almost 500 cases of academic discipline 3:01

Simon Fraser University is punishing over 10 times more students for academic dishonesty than the University of British Columbia, according to a recent CBC survey.

The survey on cheating at universities looked at 42 post-secondary institutions across Canada, and revealed more than 7,000 students — including some in B.C. — were disciplined for academic cheating between 2011 and 2012. UBC had 36 cases of academic discipline, while the less populous SFU had close to 500 cases.

Staff at both universities give different reasons for the numbers.

SFU criminologist Rob Gordon worked on reforming the university's policy to catch and punish cheaters. He said, in the past, a major problem has been professors not reporting dishonest students.

"We're trying to make sure that students understand that we take this seriously that there will be repercussions if you are detected cheating," he said.

Students who are found guilty of dishonesty at SFU carry an "FD" — or "failure, discipline" — on their transcripts.

"There is a fair process that gets followed, but nevertheless there's penalties," said Gordon.

Meanwhile, Charles Slonecker, a UBC professor and member of the school's President's Advisory Committee on Student Discipline, said there were three times as many cheaters at UBC three years ago. Today, numbers are down because students have become more aware of the repercussions of academic dishonesty.

"There is a pretty good deal of tracing things that are coming off of the net and stuff, and that if people try and do that, this sticks out like a sore thumb," he said.

CBC asked 54 universities across the country for the number of students formally disciplined for academic misconduct between 2011 and 2012. Forty-one schools provided data, which showed less than one per cent of students were caught and punished for cheating. 

Experts are concerned that most students who cheat on academic papers and exams go undetected.

With files from the CBC's Holly Moore

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