Australian University May Discipline Staff in Plagiarism Scandal, but Not Students

December 20, 2007

Sydney, Australia — An inquiry into alleged plagiarism at Australia’s University of New England has exonerated the students involved but exposed the staff to discipline.

The plagiarism scandal, one of several in recent years to cloud the reputation of Australian universities with large enrollments of foreign students, came to light in August, when the university revealed it had examined the work of 210 international students who were pursuing master’s degrees in information technology from 2004 to 2006. In its analysis, the university found a “significant proportion” of the work contained material copied from the Internet.

The curriculum was taught by a private partner, the Melbourne Institute of Technology, but the students graduated with University of New England credentials.

In a prepared statement the university pledged this week to “take appropriate disciplinary action against some staff,” introduce new measures against plagiarism, and more closely monitor the marking of papers at its affiliated private colleges.

But the university’s chancellor, John Cassidy, said that after receiving advice from a lawyer and a review panel, he had decided not to take retrospective action against the students, who have already graduated.

He said the panel had “raised questions to do with UNE’s conduct and management of the unit, the distinction between intentional and unintentional plagiarism, cultural understanding, natural justice, and the time since graduation.”

“There is an ongoing enquiry into the conduct of the staff involved,” he said. “We have also held talks with the partner institution to ensure that the appropriate processes are in place and that there is a full understanding of our mutual obligations.” —Luke Slattery