Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

Universities bust more than 80 exam cheats

Wearable technology triggers new rules among most institutions.
The University of Auckland had the third largest number of cheaters at 14, according to figures obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA). Photo / Martin Sykes
The University of Auckland had the third largest number of cheaters at 14, according to figures obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA). Photo / Martin Sykes

More than 80 tertiary students were caught cheating last year, with some busted for writing cheat notes on their bodies and calculators, using information stored on smartphones, and copying the work of those sitting next to them.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) busted the highest number of students for cheating last year, with 24 caught, followed closely by Lincoln University at 21. The University of Auckland had the third largest number of cheaters at 14, according to figures obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA).

Illicit notes and copying others remain common methods adopted by cheaters, alongside more modern trends such as using smartphones.

Universities found students hiding notes in the toilets and taking a toilet break to check them, sneaking notes into the exam hall, or whispering to others during the exam. Incidents of plagiarism and passing notes were also uncovered.

One Otago case involved a radiation therapy student who had written notes on the back of their hand, the Otago Daily Times reported earlier this year.

A total of 83 students were caught cheating across seven of New Zealand's eight universities last year - down from the 93 caught in 2014, but significantly higher than the 63 caught in 2013.

On top of those figures, the University of Waikato caught six cheaters across three academic years, but refused to provide a breakdown by year. Responding through its lawyers, the university said this was "in order to protect the privacy of natural persons and to ensure the obligations of confidentiality on the university are not compromised".

Both Lincoln and AUT caught the most cheaters over the three years, with the highest number busted in 2014: 30 at Lincoln and 24 at AUT.

Lincoln said the most common form of cheating in exams was students resorting to "cheat notes", which are usually written on paper "but could be written on the student's body or equipment such as rulers or calculators".

The university "does not tolerate academic dishonesty", a university spokeswoman said, and its records show a number of students were fined, failed their course, or both as a punishment for cheating.

"Robust systems are in place to detect incidents of academic dishonesty," the spokeswoman said.

Most of New Zealand's universities have banned smartwatches from exam halls this year, with mobile phones and other internet-enabled devices.

Massey was the first to issue a ban on smartwatches last year following the release of the innocuous looking, internet-enabled, wearable devices.

Since then a number have followed suit, training their invigilators to be able to spot a smartwatch.

AUT, Otago, Lincoln, Victoria and Waikato have all followed Massey's lead. The University of Auckland and the University of Canterbury did not respond to Herald questions about what steps they take to prevent cheating in exams.

- NZ Herald

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