A student caught cheating three times was still allowed to pass the course, his lecturer says.

The former lecturer, who asked to remain anonymous, said he resigned from the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) in protest after the institute refused to discipline the student.

"The Head of Faculty refused to discipline or sanction the student, and instead tried to place the blame for the student cheating on to me for being too strict with marking," the lecturer said.

"Appeals by me to the Student Conduct Manual fell on deaf ears, and the Head of Faculty decision to give the student three free passes on cheating was supported at the highest level of management.

"Working in New Zealand tertiary education feels like working in the twilight zone, where students receiving a fail grade are always an unacceptable outcome for management, and student cheating is reframed as 'staff failing to provide adequate student support'.

"It's not just MIT. In my experience as an academic moderator, it's [almost] everywhere, both private and state-funded tertiary education."

The Herald has been inundated with similar stories from universities and polytechnics after a Tertiary Education Union survey of 1006 lecturers found that 63 per cent felt they had come under more pressure in the past decade to pass a higher percentage of students.


The union's MIT branch president Jill Jones said her faculty was given a target to pass 85 per cent of students, and lecturers who did not achieve the target were grilled about it in their performance reviews.

An MIT graduate who studied performing arts there from 2012 to 2015 said tutors "were pressured to pass students no matter what".

"The tutors voiced their disapproval in class, it was that bad. They have to pass," the graduate said.

Another former MIT student said his lecturer gave his students their final exam a week early.

"He then marked the answers and went through the questions with his students to show them where they had gone wrong. They then sat the end-of-term exam for real and still had students who failed," the former student said.

"We also heard one lecturer say that cheating was okay as there was no point reinventing the wheel, so to speak, by needing people to learn stuff other people already knew."

A former lecturer at Auckland University of Technology said she felt her teaching methods would be questioned if she failed too many students.

"In my first year, when I presented grades to my administrator for inputting, I was told that senior management did not like too many students failed," she said.


"Throughout my career I spent many hours trying to work out how I could find extra points to get them through, even when it was clear that they did not really make the grade. That was the case for both international and domestic students at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, but more with my undergraduate classes.

"Final grades are discussed in one, big, open forum which staff hated attending as a few senior management staff bullied lecturers."

Another former university tutor said he saw similar practices and "quit before the guilt started killing me".

A former student at a wananga said all students there were "guaranteed" a pass.

"I know because I got my computing level 2 and 3 at the Hamilton one, by doing exams together as a class. If one doesn't know the answer then just wait for another to give it, then write it on the exam sheet. Easy as, bro," the former student said.

However, Canterbury University student Christine Watson, who has returned to do a second degree 20 years after completing her first degree, said her experience was the complete opposite.

"Students are driven a lot harder now, with less faculty assistance [tutorials now rarely exist] and much higher standards for work submitted," she said.

"Perhaps they are referring to the pressure to pass international students but it certainly is not my experience that university is less competitive now for students. It is actually hugely more challenging."

MIT chief executive Gus Gilmore said MIT had "very strict academic processes" in place and accusations of impropriety "are taken very seriously and formally investigated".

"The 2016 external evaluation and review conducted by the NZ Qualifications Authority gave MIT the highest possible confidence rating for educational performance and capability in self-assessment," he said.

"Our programme committees, which are responsible for the integrity and quality of our courses, are comprised of a majority of academic staff. These committees also determine the entry requirements and approve student results. Management input into the committee process is minimal.

"The student pass target of 85 per cent mentioned in the article is set as a goal to benchmark quality and performance. In 2015, MIT had an 81 per cent course completion rate.

"The target is one of many metrics used in staff performance reviews; others include 'living our values' of excellence, being real, manaakitanga and connectedness.

"While we put every effort into supporting our students and helping them to succeed, this does not include passing students who do not meet academic standards."

The NZ Qualifications Authority said that "high quality tertiary education providers have good processes in place to ensure that cheating is detected and will not allow students to pass assessments where they have not met the required standard".

"NZQA urges anyone who has concerns about assessment practices in non-university tertiary education organisations to come forward so that we can investigate," it said.

"Plagiarism, cheating, or allowing students to gain credit when it is not warranted is unacceptable.

"Where NZQA finds any problems, either as a result of a complaint or our own monitoring activities, firm action is taken - ranging from the requirement for improvement plans right through to deregistering organisations."

The complaints procedure is explained on the NZQA website.