A University of Manitoba professor says Canadian universities are missing the mark when it comes to dealing with campus cheating.

“It’s certainly not a passing grade," said Rick Holley, a professor of food sciences at the university.

“It’s very clear that the discrepancy between what is exactly happening and what the detection rates are as reflected by action are too far apart.”

According to a survey by CBC News of 42 Canadian universities, about 7,000 students were formally disciplined for academic cheating in 2011-2012 — just under one per cent of the total student population.

The University of Manitoba had 256 instances of cheating with a detection rate of one per cent, just over the national average.

The University of Winnipeg was well below the average, at 0.2 per cent, but officials declined an interview.

Instead, the university sent general information on its academic integrity policy, which states, “Any student found to have committed an act of academic misconduct may be penalized.”

It also states, “The university has a responsibility to set standards of student conduct that promote and maintain an environment in which academic integrity is understood and valued, and serves as the basis for student learning."

Professor describes first-hand experience

Holley said he has first-hand experience with academic cheaters, describing a student who plagiarized on more than one occasion.

“The materials he presented as his own were earlier versions of essays he had written for other purposes.” Holley said.

“This student was suspended and he was thrown out of the program.”

Holley said it was a case in which cheating was detected and punished, but only after it happened twice.

A Winnipeg student, whose identity CBC News is protecting, said he saw self-plagiarizing at his Manitoba university on a daily basis.

“I've seen people plagiarize themselves quite a bit, especially when you're in a program and a similar assignment comes up,” he said.

“They'll definitely go back and use it and change some things around, and hope not to get caught."

Brandon University to change discipline tracking

Brandon University does not track its academic discipline cases in a centralized way, but that is about to change.

“Because we don’t have aggregate data and because it is decentralized, I don’t have a hard number to give you, but it is something all of our faculties do deal with and it is something that is of great concern," Tom Brophy, the university's associate vice-president, said in an interview.

Julia Christensen Hughes

Julia Christensen Hughes, dean of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph, says surveys of students show that more than 50 per cent admit to different forms of cheating. (CBC)

Brophy said he plans to have a centralized cheating tracking system in place within the next month, adding that it will help the university keep up with evolving trends in academic cheating.

“We should also have those data points,” he said. ”We can talk in a trend perspective, if they are growing, and in what context they are growing.”  

Julia Christensen Hughes, dean of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph, completed a study in 2006 showing that more than 50 per cent of students admit to cheating — far from the under one per cent being punished.

“There's a huge gap between what students are telling us they're doing, and the numbers of students that are being caught and sanctioned for those behaviours," she said.

James Allum, Manitoba's minister of higher education, said his department takes the information very seriously because it is coming directly from students.

“We are concerned about this,” he said.

“We are going to talk to the institutions, work with them, and ensure our testing procedures remain solid, protect the integrity of the educational system and to ensure public confidence in our educational systems.”

With files from the CBC's Joanne Levasseur