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Understanding academic integrity: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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  • Beta release for consultation and feedback. Please email comments and suggestions to academic.integrity [at] teqsa.gov.au.

The following are common questions about academic integrity that are asked by students. The answers provide general information, and TEQSA encourages students to speak with their institution for more information relevant to them.

How likely am I to get caught if I cheat? 

Despite what you may have heard, research and experience shows that Australian higher education providers are catching students who engage in plagiarism and cheating, including the use of contract cheating services. New technology, changes in assessment design and academics trained to actively look for suspect essays, projects or exams means 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.

I wanted to read some study notes and found some on a website. To 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 commercial cheating services often ask students to upload their own work in order to access notes, essays or ‘study support’ in order to sell it for a profit to other students. Should your provider find out, you may face penalties 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 as a form of collusion, which is a breach of your academic integrity. You also face the risk that your friend could share your work with other students or even upload it to a commercial 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 was to contribute to, or change, the content of your assignment this could constitute a breach of academic integrity.

It should be noted, under the new Australian laws, anyone who provides contract 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 has alleged 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 in place clear policies and procedures related to student discipline, complaints and appeals. You should refer to these policies. 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 contract cheating. Who should I report my concerns to?

If you have evidence people in your course are contract cheating, you should inform your institution. Depending on the circumstance, you may want to raise with your unit coordinator or lecturer first or you may wish to make a complaint via more formal channels. A good place to start for specific information about your institution is your provider’s learning management system (LMS), student handbook or website.

Can contract cheating impact my future career? 

Yes, contract 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. If you are caught contract cheating, you may be denied registration by a professional body. Even if you are not caught, since you didn’t do the work yourself, you may not meet the standards expected by your future employer. You also run the risk of the contract cheating service blackmailing you by threatening to expose your cheating to your employer unless you pay them additional money.

I engaged in contract cheating and now the commercial cheating service is demanding I pay them more money or else they will tell my provider. What should I do?

Threatening a person with negative consequences unless that person pays money is known as blackmail. Blackmail is illegal, but unfortunately, students find themselves being blackmailed by commercial cheating services and even friends, fellow students or family members after engaging in contract cheating. Due to the nature of blackmail, often paying once to meet the demands is unlikely to be the end of it. This can be a very stressful situation for students, who in addition to the blackmailer’s demands are also concerned about the consequences should their institute or employer find out.

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

You may decide to self-report your cheating to your institution. One big advantage of self-reporting is the person who is threatening to report you would lose all of the power they have over you. Another advantage is you could learn from the mistake and complete your degree knowing you had 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 contract cheating.

Adapted from information developed by Deakin University Student Association