THE FIRST weeks at University can be hectic.
There is finding friends, finding a decent takeaway, exploring the world in a number of ways that parents don’t like to acknowledge exist.
IGNORANCE NO EXCUSE
There are also, at most universities, a short bedding-in period when students are given an idea of the academic standards they are supposed to attain.
And one message is hammered home early and hammered home often: plagiarism can seriously mess up your academic future. If you are caught, you face a range of punishments which can include having to re-sit a course module up to expulsion from the University.
Even if you help someone cheat – because that is what plagiarism is, cheating – you can be penalised. The student who helps a friend cheat by letting them copy their submitted work is as guilty as the friend they try to ‘help’.
It’s not as if it’s a great mystery to students that the penalties for cheating are serious. That is spelled out by lecturers, and contained in every single course manual and the student code of conduct.
THE PRESSURE TO PERFORM
The pressure on students to perform can be tough. The increase in the numbers of students attending university has debased the value of a degree to the extent that some overseas universities no longer recognise UK universities’ award of one year Master’s degree, let alone regard undergraduate degrees as the hallmark of academic achievement. That applies to universities across the UK.
Most professions will specify that a 2:1 or better is required at undergraduate level for admission to postgraduate study. Graduate traineeships often specify the same requirement as a minimum.
Teaching, for example, is so desperately keen to recruit the best undergraduates and postgraduates that it offers incentives for those with better honours degrees in select subjects. The determination to shed the ‘those who can’t, teach’ label has created a marketplace in which a first class honours degree in a priority subject – physics, maths, chemistry, Welsh – can access £20K of funding for postgraduate qualification as a teacher. A 2:2 degree in any other subject gets you nothing in additional support.
CHEATING NOT NEW
A minority of students have always cheated, but the use of the internet has created an environment in which cheating has become easier. As higher education has become more accessible so has easy access to any number of shortcuts and back-alley ways to bumping up marks.
Looking at some standalone work-related training modules delivered by private companies, there is solid evidence that not only are the lecturers under-qualified to deliver the course material but that they turn a blind-eye to a culture of cut and paste.
The Herald is aware of one course tutor who actively encouraged one person attending such a course to simply resubmit their undergraduate coursework to gain the qualification they were seeking via the provider employing the tutor.
Self-plagiarism is still plagiarism and it is still cheating. More importantly, the training provider – or rather, the course tutor – was, of course, swindling the employer funding the training.
Does it matter?
Of course it does. In a working world in which employers look at qualifications first, how is the employer meant to distinguish between a qualification gained through GENUINE effort, work, and ability and one gained by a cheating recourse to Control-C followed by Control-V?
Those who get away with it are often smug, but they also liars and – ultimately – frauds.
Essay mills, the last resort of the truly idle cheat, claim to be able to deliver a guaranteed grade in any subject on any topic – for a price.
Essay mills represent cheating on a commercial and contractual scale. An essay mill is a business that allows customers to commission an original piece of writing on a particular topic so that they may commit academic fraud. Students commission others to write their coursework for them through an essay mill in the hope they will attain the grade required.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education said in 2016: “Providers of these services claim that the essays they produce are ‘100 per cent plagiarism free’, but that is a misleading claim. While the essay may not contain any plagiarised text itself, it becomes an act of plagiarism and academic dishonesty once the student submits it for assessment and represents it as his or her own work.
“If students submit work that is not their own, this compromises the fairness of the assessment process and poses a threat to the reputation of UK higher education. There are potentially serious ramifications for the public if people who falsely claim to be competent as a result of an academic award enter a profession and practise.”
In February this year, the UK Government began a consultation with QAA, universities, and the NUS. At that point, the UK Government suggested it was reluctant to go down the legislative route to try and tackle the problem, but in other countries both the provider AND the student would be guilty of a criminal offence.
Such is the scale of the issue across the UK, and not solely in Wales, that QAA has recommended that the advertising of ‘contract cheating’ services be banned and that criminal penalties be put in place for cheating by the use of essay mills. In New Zealand, essay mills have been fined and had their assets frozen.
PLAGIARISM IN WELSH UNIS
The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by a Freedom of Information Act request made by BBC Radio Wales.
Figures obtained by the broadcaster showed an increase in cases of alleged plagiarism from 1,370 2013/14 to 2,044 in 2015/16.
The BBC Freedom of Information request disclosed the following over the three academic years 2013/14 to 2015/16
- University of South Wales (approximately 30,000 students): 1,144 students accused of cheating, two prohibited from sitting future exams
- Cardiff Metropolitan University: 565 students accused of cheating, 12 prohibited from sitting future exams
- University of Wales Trinity Saint David – UWTSD: 928 students accused of cheating, 47 prohibited from sitting future exams
- Bangor University: 36 students accused of cheating, four prohibited from sitting future exams
- Cardiff University: 713 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
- Swansea University: 1,157 students accused of cheating, 25 prohibited from sitting future exams
- Wrexham Glyndwr University: 103 students accused of cheating, three prohibited from sitting future exams
- Aberystwyth University: 551 students accused of cheating, 0 prohibited from sitting future exams
- The increased detection of plagiarism suggests that universities are becoming more adept at identifying incidents of academic fraud.
Many Universities use software to detect plagiarism, for example Turn-it-in. The software uses a document comparison algorithm that checks papers against a massive database of stored academic papers to identify cheats.
We asked UWTSD to comment on the figures.
Thousands of people in Carmarthenshire could now be eligible for free courses
THOUSANDS of people in Carmarthenshire could now eligible for free training to rewrite their career by setting up a Personal Learning Account.
As part of the Welsh Government programme, Coleg Ceredigion and Coleg Sir Gar are running several courses in sectors that are ripe for job opportunities, including construction, finance, IT, health and safety, project management and engineering.
The programme is aimed at those who are currently on furlough, on a zero hours contract, or whose job is at risk, providing they are 19 or over and earning under £26,000.
Following a successful pilot with Coleg Gwent and Grwp Llandrillo Menai which saw around 500 people across Wales enrol on fully-funded part-time courses, Personal Learning Accounts are now being rolled out nationally to help thousands of people in Wales boost their skills and employability.
All courses have been specifically designed to match skills gaps already identified in priority sectors in Wales. Employers and stakeholders have worked in partnership with colleges to develop courses that are relevant to sectors which are expected to create job opportunities now or in the near future.
All courses are part-time and are truly flexible, designed for study around other commitments such as a current job. Many are being delivered online meaning learners can study remotely and in the evenings and weekends.
Some of the courses running at Coleg Ceredigion and Coleg Sir Gar throughout January and February are aimed at people running their own business and include Brand Strategy, Social Media for Business, Coaching and Mentoring, NEBOSH Managing Safely and IOSH Working Safely.
Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said: “The impact of the pandemic has unfortunately affected many industries, with many people looking at ways to gain new work skills, perhaps at their local college.
“Personal Learning Accounts are designed to help people in employment and whose jobs may be at risk. If you’re worried about the certainty of your employment, or you’re on furlough or a zero hours contract, accessing a free Personal Learning Account could provide you with the skills and qualifications to embark on a new and rewarding career.
“As we work towards a Welsh right to lifelong learning, the PLAs show what can be achieved for individuals, the economy and the country as a whole.”
One learner who has already taken part in the Brand Strategy course is self-employed personal trainer, James Cartwright. The gym James works at was closed over lockdown meaning James was unable to continue his work. James completed the Brand Strategy course to help boost his business and has since signed up for a six-week course in Social Media for Small Business.
He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the course and can’t wait for the next one. From the first session it’s really provoked a lot of thought into what I’m doing and given me so much clarity already on where I need to take things.”
Jemma Parsons, PLA Project Co-ordinator, Business Development and Employer Engagement Team at Coleg Ceredigion and Coleg Sir Gar, said: “We are delighted to be working with Welsh Government and the Regional Skills Partnership to deliver the Personal Learning Account. We look forward to supporting individuals in their training and development to progress in current and new careers and fulfil their aspirations. This funded training has come at what is a very difficult time for all.
“We hope to support individuals through face to face learning where possible, adhering to Government restrictions to ensure that all of our learners and staff keep safe, but have developed the New Year Provision to include online and Virtual Classroom learning.
“We look forward to offering individuals and employers the opportunity to upskill in areas such as Digital and Technology, Media, Health and Social Care, Construction and Creative Industries. We have some very exciting collaborations planned which will further the opportunities for individuals and employers in the region.”
Careers advice for deaf children
THOUSANDS of young, deaf people across Wales will benefit from tailored careers advice for years to come thanks to a new partnership.
Careers Wales, which gives free and impartial careers guidance to young people, has joined forces with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to help better meet the needs of the country’s 2,500 deaf young people.
The partnership was established after deaf young people revealed they were worried about how being deaf would affect their employment prospects.
Concerned that young people wrongly thought their deafness was a barrier to employment, the two organisations held two focus groups to ask deaf young people about the careers advice they’d received and how it could be improved.
The results showed that deaf young people were often low on confidence, unaware of their rights and knew little about Government funding or technology that could help them in the workplace or higher education.
In response to the findings, the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru will now work together with Careers Wales and provide training to its careers
advisers to enhance their understanding of deaf awareness, accessibility and the key careers information that affects deaf young people.
The partnership means that current and future generations of deaf young people in Wales will benefit from more accessible and tailored careers advice.
As a result, thousands more across Wales could receive the knowledge, confidence and encouragement they need to make informed career choices and pursue their chosen ambition.
Previous research from the National Deaf Children’s Society with over 100 deaf young people across the UK showed that two thirds would hide their deafness on a job application, while almost half (45%) did not feel supported by their school or college when thinking about choices for the future.
Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Careers Wales and with this extra training, careers advisers will be able to give deaf young people the crucial advice they need in a format that’s tailored to them.
“Deaf young people are just as capable as hearing young people, but all too often they’re held back by the myths and misconceptions that surround deafness and the workplace. This needs to change.
“There’s an entire generation of deaf potential out there and this is a really positive step towards fully unleashing it.”
Nerys Bourne, Head of Services to Young People at Careers Wales, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to enhance our commitment to providing effective careers guidance and coaching to deaf young people in Wales.
“Providing this additional training to our advisers will enable them to focus more efficiently on the specific needs of young people within this group and to support them with a tailored and empowering careers advice service.
“We believe that this is a positive step towards equipping deaf young people in Wales with the right knowledge, awareness and confidence to succeed in their chosen career path.”
Officers celebrate completing first programme with University of South Wales
A GROUP of eight Dyfed-Powys Police officers are celebrating becoming the first in England and Wales to complete a new graduate diploma in policing.
The PCs mark the end of the Graduate Diploma Professional Policing Practice at the University of South Wales (USW) with a virtual celebratory event on Friday, February 5th. A traditional formal graduation will take place once social distancing restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to celebrate in person.
Having experienced a combination of university lectures and academic learning with life on the beat, the officers are the first in Wales and England to complete the Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP) and gain a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
With backgrounds ranging from sports management to criminology and biology, the officers are now based across the force as fully licensed police officers responding to calls and investigating incidents.
Superintendent Ross Evans, force lead for Learning and Development, said: “This event marks the end of two years of hard work by our students, who are the first police officers in England and Wales to complete the DHEP course.
“Not only have they been the first cohort to combine real-life policing experiences on division with academic learning, but they have successfully managed this while reacting to the operational changes and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have no doubt that the theory and practice of the diploma, coupled with the support from USW and our in-force learning and development department, will have put them in very good stead as they begin their careers with Dyfed-Powys Police in earnest.”
The DHEP forms part of the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) and is a two-year graduate diploma.
Dyfed-Powys Police and USW are working in collaboration to deliver the PEQF initial entry programmes to all new police officer recruits, whether through the DHEP or Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), and support students academically and occupationally.
From the first day of the course, the group became both serving police officers and USW students. Student officers gained independent patrol status by the end of the first year, and were required to complete an Operational Competency Portfolio by the end of year two.
Supt Evans added: “This is a new approach to police training, and one we have embraced and embedded at Dyfed-Powys.
“The PCs from this course are already passing their learning on to the next cohort of officers, and we are confident that their unique skills and experience will enhance the force and the service we provide to our communities.
“My thanks go to the students themselves, who have shown dedication and commitment to both their university work and their policing duties, as well as their families and friends for their support over the past two years.”
Peter Vaughan QPM, Director of the International Centre for Policing and Security at USW, said: “We are incredibly proud to be partnered with Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police (HDPP) and to be celebrating this significant achievement with the graduates of our first Policing Practice programme.
“Congratulating these Dyfed-Powys student officers on becoming the first in Wales and England to achieve their Graduate Diploma under the PEQF marks a very important occasion for us all and we very much hope that they have enjoyed studying with us as much as we have enjoyed teaching them.
“The professionalisation of the education provided to those who enter the police service at the rank of constable is a fundamental aim of the PEQF and we are proud to be contributing to this important endeavour with our partners at HDPP.”
Dafydd Llywelyn, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I’d like to congratulate each and every one of the eight graduates for their fantastic achievement in gaining this new and innovative qualification.
“Gaining a qualification where the study methods include a combination of experience out on the beat, and also an academic input from both our Dyfed-Powys Police Learning and Development team and lecturers at University of South Wales, provides an excellent foundation for developing a successful career in policing, and I look forward to working with all eight graduates here in Dyfed-Powys, and hopefully see their careers developing further.”
Jo Noakes, Director of Workforce Development at the College of Policing, said: “The College is pleased to congratulate Dyfed-Powys’s eight newly confirmed police constables on completion of the Degree Holder Entry Programme. This is a significant milestone in the adoption of the new initial entry routes into policing as they are the first in England and Wales to complete any of the new programmes for police constable.
“We would like to commend Dyfed-Powys on their enthusiastic and positive approach to the challenge of bringing the new learning programmes to life. This is a huge achievement, particularly in the context of the national police uplift programme and the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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