Are International Students More Prone To Cheating?


Reports suggest that international students at University cheat more than their domestic counterparts in academic assessment.

The Times found that students from outside of the European Union were the greatest offenders for cheating, being four times more likely to cheat than UK students. This comes alongside the Wall Street Journals report that the probability of international students cheating in the US was 5.1%, compared to only 1% for domestic students. 

Of particular interest were some specific universities such as Queen Mary, University of London, where 75% of postgraduates found to be cheating were non-EU students, including one third from China alone. At the 70 universities studied by The Times, non-EU students made up 35% of those cheating, despite only accounting for 12% of the student population.

University World News suggests that one of the reasons for this is that ‘many of these cheating students come from countries with endemic corruption’. This is justified by a study conducted in Russia, where it was found that the frequency of an institution’s students cheating increased as they progressed to the latter years of their studies.

UWN considers this alongside the existence of ‘diploma mills’ in China, which produces hundreds of falsified qualifications for students, as an explanation for the disproportionate cheating statistics between domestic and international students.

However, it seems one should question the statistics here before immediately concluding that international students are more likely to cheat than their domestic counterparts.

The UK results come from Freedom of Information Requests to 70 of the 154 recognised higher education institutions in the country. While the sample is representative, the data-collection is not and only reflects instances where students were caught cheating. This is especially the case if some of the companies that help students to cheat are to be believed in their claims that they are relied on by ‘10,000+ students’.

A professor from the University of Buckingham’s comments to The Times, reported in The Independent, seems to suggest that type-2 plagiarism, the use of private services to produce academic work for submission, is on the rise. Again, this is a difficult to conclude from such a limited view of the sample.

The nature of the study also means that it is difficult to ascertain in what way those found to be breaching academic integrity guidelines were caught, and whether an element of bias may have played a role.

The similarities found in the UK’s cases of cheating and other areas such as the US and Australia could suggest that there is either a disproportion in international students cheating, or a consistent unconscious bias against international students. However, trying to explain how international students were found to be cheating is difficult without an extensive understanding of the methodology used to detect and investigate such claims.

The emphasis here would be that further research is needed to fully understand  whether it is true that more international students are actually cheating, or simply that more are being caught than their domestic counterparts.


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