Understanding academic integrity: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Here are some common questions about academic integrity. The answers provide general information, and TEQSA encourages students to speak with their institution for more information relevant to them and their circumstances.

Will I get caught if I cheat? 

Despite what you may have heard, research and experience shows Australian higher education providers are catching students who plagiarise and cheat, including using illegal commercial cheating services. New technology, changes in assessment design and academics trained to actively look for suspect essays, projects or exams mean you’re more likely than ever to get caught.

I’m struggling with my assessment. How can I get help?

If you’re experiencing difficulties with your studies, you should speak as soon as possible to your unit coordinator or lecturer. You may be able to negotiate a solution that better supports you to complete your studies. You should also talk to your provider about any study skills support they offer, such as advice on referencing, essay writing and research. Taking these steps shows that you value your academic integrity and that of your school or university.

I wanted to read some study notes that I found on a website. Before I could access the notes, the website required me to upload an old assignment. Have I breached academic integrity by uploading my old assignment?

Yes, you have likely breached your academic integrity by sharing your assignment. Illegal cheating services often ask students to upload their own work in order to access notes, essays or ‘study support’ and then sell it for a profit to other students. If your provider finds out, you may face a penalty for engaging in contract cheating. You should protect your work and never share it with anyone else or upload it to third-party websites.

Is it ok if I share an assignment I’ve already been graded for with my friend? 

No, sharing your assignment with your friend could be considered a form of collusion, which is a breach of your academic integrity. There is also a risk that your friend could share your work with other students or even upload it to an illegal cheating service. You should protect your work and never share it with anyone else or upload it to third-party websites.

A family member or friend has offered to help with my essay. Is this ok?

While it is good that a family member or friend is willing to help, you need to be careful. A quick grammar and spelling check is fine, but if your family member or friend contributes to, or changes the content of your assignment this could constitute a breach of academic integrity.

It should be noted, under the Australian laws, anyone who provides illegal cheating services (such as essay writing or impersonation at an exam) but does not receive payment could still be subject to heavy fines.

My provider alleges that I’ve committed academic misconduct. What should I do?

If you are alleged to have breached academic integrity, you should treat this matter seriously. Your institution must have clear policies and procedures related to student discipline, complaints and appeals. You should read these policies and depending on your institution, you may also be able to seek advocacy and support services offered by a student association. 

I know people in my course are cheating. Who should I report my concerns to?

If you have evidence people in your course are cheating, you should inform your school or university. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to raise your concerns with your unit coordinator or lecturer first or you may wish to make a complaint via more formal channels. Your institution’s learning management system (LMS), student handbook or website is a good place to find information. You can also report suspected illegal cheating websites directly to TEQSA using our online form.

Can cheating impact my future career? 

Yes, any type of cheating can have a large and negative impact on your future career. Many students are studying to learn the information and skills needed to achieve their career goals. Even if you are not caught, by not doing the required work yourself, you may not meet the standards expected by your future employer. And if you are caught cheating, you may be denied registration by a professional body. You also run the risk of blackmail with the illegal cheating service threatening to expose your cheating to your employer unless you pay them more money.

I paid someone else to do my work and now they are demanding I pay them more money or else they will tell my institution. What should I do?

Threatening a person with negative consequences unless that person pays money is known as blackmail. Blackmail is illegal, but unfortunately, some students find themselves being blackmailed by illegal cheating services and even friends, fellow students or family members after engaging in cheating. Paying once to meet the demands is often not the end of it, they might ask for more and more money. This can be a very stressful situation for students, who in addition to the blackmailer’s demands are also concerned about the consequences if their institute or employer finds out.

If you are being blackmailed, you should seek advice about your situation. Some institutions have independent student advocacy or legal services where you can get confidential advice. Community Legal Centres may be also able to provide you with advice. You should keep a copy of all messages you have received as possible evidence of what has occurred.

You may decide to self-report your cheating to your institution. One big advantage of self-reporting is that the person who is threatening to report you would lose their power over you. Another advantage is being able to learn from the mistake and complete your degree knowing you acted with integrity. You should, however, expect your institution to treat the matter in accordance with its policies and procedures, which means you may face an academic penalty or higher, depending on the nature of the cheating.

Adapted from information developed by Deakin University Student Association

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