Azara Blog: Standards in UK universities are allegedly declining

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Date published: 2008/06/17

The BBC says:

Universities are turning a blind eye to cheating to boost degree results, a leading academic has said.

Buckingham University's Professor Geoffrey Alderman says league tables create pressure to award high marks.

The number of first-class honours degrees awarded has risen by more than 100% in the past decade. The number of undergraduates is up by just over 40%.

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said all courses were subject to regular internal monitoring.

Professor Alderman, who used to set standards at the University of London, will say in a lecture that academics are under pressure to turn a blind eye to plagiarism and "mark positively", which could lead to a collapse in degree standards.

The government provides every incentive for universities to behave as claimed by Alderman, and needless to say universities respond to incentives just like everyone else. On the other hand, in the matter of cheating, it is normally pretty easy to convince colleagues that such and such a student has cheated. But how many people would be willing to stand up in a court of law and defend this claim rigourously, and how many universities would be willing to risk an awful lot of money doing so? Perhaps not many cheaters would go to court but the universities don't know who would. It's quite possible that this is a more important factor in why cheats get away with it than the requirement to boost grade outcomes.

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