Australian plagiarism scandal threatens international relations

A recent plagiarism scandal could cost Australia some of its lucrative international students. "Fresh allegations of soft marking and plagiarism cover-ups are suddenly emerging at Newcastle and the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating the university. The allegations will harm Newcastle, there is no doubt, but more concerning is what those allegations will do to the perception of Australian higher education overseas. Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson recently warned that Newcastle was putting at risk public confidence in the sector and the reputation of Australias $5.2 billion education export industry. Education is Australias third-largest export bigger than wool and close to wheat, according to Dr Nelson. " Accusations of secrecy and racism have heightened the controversy.

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Newcastle University Plagiarism Scandal

I am the lecturer who uncovered the cases of plagiarism at the centre of this scandal. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor claims that my original markings and comments have not been tampered with, yet the University has steadfastly refused - and refuses to this day - to compare the content of the web sites I identified to the content of the papers. Its Student Discipline Committee followed a flawed process when reviewing this matter, and consequently the university has allowed 6 of the 15 people who cheated to graduate without any penalty - without even being required to submit new papers! The University commissioned a study by the St James Ethics Centre into attitudes toward plagiarism at its Newcastle campus and has posted the report on its web site. You can download the report through a link at Incredibly, in its press release about the report at, the University falsely asserts that "The report found there was no evidence of an attempt to cover up the allegations of plagiarism or that the senior management of the University acted inappropriately in any way." I defy anyone to locate such findings in the report. What hope is there for an institution that will not honestly face up to a report that deals with deficiencies in its approach to academic dishonesty? This is not a case of a minor misinterpretation of the report's content, it is a serious misrepresentation, and it has been used by the Vice-Chancellor as justification for continuing in that role. I have drawn this dishonesty to the attention of the newly-appointed Chancellor, who has failed to respond to two e-mails on the subject from me. I can only interpret his silence as acquiescence to the misrepresentation. I have written to the Federal Minister for Education, Dr Brendan Nelson, who has not responded, and to the New South Wales Minister for Education, Dr Andrew Refshaugfe, who has acknowledged my letter, asking them both to take appropriate action. I have no idea what either might do, but based on what has happened to date, I expect there may be a bit of huff and puff in the Parliaments or the media, and little else. I doubt that any real action will occur. I have also asked the University to remove or qualify defamatory comment about me contained in the St James report and attributed to an unnamed member of the reference group through which the findings of the study were filtered. Professor Brian English, said to be a contender for the office of Vice-Chancellor (and whio was a member of the reference group), refuses to do so. So there you have it - the University's response to the initial allegations was inappropriate. It has refused to correct its error. It misrepresents what has been said about the situation in a report it commissioned. The new Chancellor, it seems, does not care. Senior University officials have tried to lay blame on me for their incompetence - and they are being allowed to get away with it, because the media have lost interest and politicians can't see political mileage in intervening. It's a pretty sad state of affairs, really.

Newcastle University Plagiarism Scandal Mk II

I have been previously been involved in the governance of education in a S.E.A. country. As Academic Director, I tried my best to enforce a strict policy against plagiarism, but was told by the CEO, "What you need understand, (my name), if we don't let them plagiarise, they wont pass. If they don't pass, we don't have a business". This Unicentre has over 1,000 students. I felt this situation was wrong, so I resigned. What needs to be realised is that by-and-large the offshore partnerships target students who have failed to matriculate into the local universities. Therefore, it is hard for these students to meet the standards required of genuine coursework and assessment. Moreover, these weaker students are fast-tracked through ten week terms, so three year degree programmes can be compressed. Again, down go standards. Relatedly, the offshore private providers pendle their own proprietory diploma and advanced diploma programmes over which the provider, cum, merchant retailer, has greater control. The universities then, unwisely, in my opinion, grant advanced credit into undergraduate degrees. Local offshore universities don't grant these credits. They know what is going on. I have written Dr Brendan Nelson. In fact, I sent a full submission about two years ago. Herein, I strongly suspect, the report was not acted on in any way. If, the recommendations had been addressed, hopefully, we not have so many problens with these offshore arrangements now. Some VCs, I feel, see themselves as "untouchables". It would be apt if the ICAC or other appropriate party burst were to burst their balloon.

seeking aussie academics about plagiarism

Hi all, I'm the Sydney Morning Herald's higher education reporter, and I'm covering ICAC's investigation into the University of Newcastle. I am also looking more broadly into academic standards and how universities handle plagiarism. Please contact me with any experiences or information you think pertinent. My name is Matthew Thompson and you can email me at or phone me at (02) 9282 2217.