Science - September 22, 2005

No harder sanctions for fraud

The examinations committees in Wageningen intend to fight cheating during exams by better informing the students. They won’t be introducing harder sanctions, but want to first make teachers and students aware of the rules. They are also working on a protocol for invigilating during exams.

The examinations committees in Wageningen met last week to discuss new measures, after students were again found with notes in their dictionaries during exams this summer. They want to start by improving the information that teachers and students have.
Dr Paul Berentsen of the Social Sciences examinations committee: ‘By drawing attention to the rules again we hope to make things clear about what is allowed and what is not allowed during exams. Dictionaries are allowed, but translation machines are only allowed if specific permission has been given by the examiner.’ The examinations committees are considering introducing an invigilation protocol. Berentsen: Students have to be aware that there is a good chance they will be caught.’
Chair of Criminology at the University of Utrecht, Professor Frank Bovenkerk, recently showed that the chance of being discovered cheating is small at present. The number of students who have ever cheated during their study is much larger than the examinations committees’ figures would lead one to believe, according to a small piece of research he published this summer. In this, three-quarters of the students surveyed admitted to having copied or having sought help during a group assignment.
Bovenkerk refers to opportunity theory to explain this high percentage. This asserts that there will always be ‘motivated perpetrators’ who are going to cheat. And the increasing number of technological opportunities combined with current mass education, the number of opportunities has increased. In a recent interview in the Utrecht university newspaper Ublad, Bovenkerk said: ‘Students who chose to regard the university as a diploma factory have little reason not to cheat.’ He does not think that stronger punishments will help. ‘As long as the chance of being caught remains small the strength of punishment is not important, we know that,’ confirms Bovenkerk.
It is for this reason that the examinations committees have decided not to introduce stronger sanctions. At the moment students who are caught cheating have their exam results annulled, and cannot attend the first opportunity to take the exam again. / JH

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