Science - April 21, 2005

More exam fraud

Cheating during exams is on the rise. Like school children, students write whole theories in the dictionaries that they are allowed to use during exams. Exam committees therefore want to increase the role of observers.

Ir Jasper Eshuis of the Communication and Innovation Group noticed the problem when he decided to actively observe the students during exams. Normally the observer sits at the front of the room doing his or her own work, glancing up only occasionally at the struggling students. But when Eshuis started walking around the room and carefully watching the students he discovered cases of fraud. The students had written whole theories in the white spaces in the dictionaries that they are allowed to use during the exams and they copied these onto their papers. Eshuis: ‘Yes, it’s really that pathetic. You just don’t do that at university level.’

Eshuis closely observed the students during three exams given by the communication sciences group and he witnessed fraud in all three cases. Since exams are normally not strictly monitored, Eshuis would not be surprised if students cheat more often. This was confirmed by Mr. Sipke de Jong, secretary of the general examination committee. ‘We receive regular reports of warnings given to students as well of cases of actual fraud. We have noticed an increase in the number of reported cases of fraud.'

'The exam committees therefore want to increase the quality of the examination process’, De Jong explains. The new examination regulations clearly define the role of the observer and what is understood to be fraud. The punishments for fraud have also been increased. Since January a plagiary scanner is also available, which is a computer programme instructors can use to determine whether text has been extracted from elsewhere.

Eshuis is very concerned about the cheating. ‘I have the feeling that students don’t really realise what their doing. This says something about the integrity and trustworthiness of students. Academic training includes enabling students to make ethical judgements. If they cheat, something’s not right. Our students are being educated to take on responsible positions in society. They have to be worthy of trust. The university is also based on mutual trust and the responsible behaviour of students. Do we have to monitor the students even more? That is expensive and it is not the way we want to work at the university.’ / JT