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VP says new report on cheating at Western University 'concerning'

New numbers from Western University suggest graduate and postdoctoral students are committing the bulk of the school's plagiarism violations during the last academic year. 

The scholastic offences report reveals 112 plagiarism violations in the 2018-2019 academic year

This past academic year, Western University saw a rise in the total of scholastic offences from 186 the previous year to 228. (CBC)

You'd think the more education students have, the smarter they'd be when it comes to plagiarism, but new numbers from Western University suggest otherwise. 

This month, Western's senate released its scholastic offences report for the 2018-2019 school year and it found that graduate and postdoctoral students committed the plagiarism, with 44 recorded offences. 

John Doerksen, Western's vice-provost of academic programs, believes that number is due to an incident in which over 20 students were involved.

"It's concerning," Doerksen told CBC's Afternoon Drive regarding the coordinated incident. 

"When we see this kind of cheating, it kind of devalues the degree they're getting. If it was achieved through academic dishonesty, that's a very serious concern," he added.

Other faculties that reported incidents include social science with 16, followed closely by the science faculty with 15. In all, the report documented 112 incidents of plagiarism at the school.

The penalty for each plagiarism case varies from having students redo the assignment, to docking marks or, if serious, kicking students out of their program.  

"There are two main factors," Doerksen said when deciding the appropriate sanction for the student. "One, is the significance of the plagiarism, but, the other part is the level of knowledge and maturity the student has. The expectation is different if you're a grad student." 

The only two faculties with no plagiarism offences this past year were Arts and Humanities and Engineering.

However, there were two incidents of submitting false medical notes and 11 incidents of unauthorized collaboration on assignments respectively. 

Other findings: 

  • The Faculty of Social Science had the highest number of cheating incidents, with 11 offences recorded. 
  • The Faculty of Engineering and Music had the highest number of unauthorized collaboration on assignments, both sitting at 11 incidents. 
  • The Faculty of Health Science had two incidents of submitting false credentials o transcripts. 
  • Out of Western's three affiliated university colleges, King's University College had the highest number of plagiarism incidents with a total of 12.
  • The Faculty of Information and Media Studies and Medicine and Dentistry has the least amount of offences in total. Each with one offence of plagiarism. 

Doerksen says it's hard to determine the driver of cases of plagiarism.

"There probably are an array of considerations [as to why this is happening]. Students may find themselves either under a great deal of stress or simply not up to the academic challenge," he added. 

This past academic year, Western University saw a rise in the total of scholastic offences from 186 the previous year to 228.

These offences include plagiarism, cheating, submitting false medical notes, collaborating on assignments and falsifying credentials among other violations. 

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