University expels 34 students for cheating

Thirty-four students have been expelled for cheating since Abu Dhabi University launched its campaign on academic integrity in April 2009, the university has said.

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ABU DHABI // Thirty-four students have been expelled for cheating since Abu Dhabi University launched its campaign on academic integrity in April 2009, the university said yesterday.

There was "no doubt whatsoever" about the students' conduct, said Dr Jehan Zitawi, head of the university's Office of Academic Integrity (OAI) and dean of University College. "These were all very clear cases of cheating, with documented proof," she said.

If there were any doubts, the university would continue its investigation and explore other punishments, Dr Zitawi said. But in "blatant" cases of cheating, such as bringing a cheat sheet to an exam or exchanging test papers with another student, the university would show no leniency, she said.

Of the 34 students expelled, 24 were from the Abu Dhabi campus and 10 from the Al Ain campus; 17 were men and 17 women. Some of gave false results for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the proficiency test required of all prospective students, on their university application forms. Falsifying results is considered lying, said Dr Zitawi, and results in expulsion.

During its campaign the OAI conducted disciplinary investigations into 508 students reported by faculties, professors or instructors.

Students not expelled were put on probation or suspended for an academic year, the second-harshest punishment, for offences such as plagiarism, or purchasing projects or papers and submitting them as their own.

Before the OAI's campaign students caught cheating were given first and second warnings.

"We have been working for almost two years to teach students what constitutes cheating and how to avoid plagiarism," Dr Zitawi said.

The OAI has visited more than 500 classes in the two campuses to get the message across, and has conducted seminars and workshops to advise students on the difference between paraphrasing and summarising and direct and indirect quotations, and how to write and submit assignments correctly.

"We've taught them right from wrong, so from now on no excuses will be accepted. There will be no warnings, only expulsion," Dr Zitawi said.

Every student is asked to sign a code of honour upon admission to the university, and parents are made aware of the pledge.

The university has also made it compulsory for all students to attend presentations on the consequences and meaning of cheating, and appointed exam monitors to search female students for exam aids hidden under abayas and sheilas, said Noha Hamedi, a marketing student.

Dr Zitawi said it was a constant struggle to make students aware of what constituted proper and ethical academic conduct. "We have to instil a sense of responsibility in the work they submit as part of their academic careers," she said.

This is the second time the university has expelled students. In October, 62 men and 64 women were told to leave after failing to meet academic standards. Each had received three warnings, and some had been students for seven years without completing a degree.

Said al Dhaheri, chairman of the university's executive board, said the most recent expulsions were necessary "to ensure that Abu Dhabi University graduates are imparted with impeccable, transparent and reliable credentials".

Dr Nabil Ibrahim, the university's chancellor, said the institution used Turnitin, an internet-based plagiarism detection service, to "detect, prevent and eventually eradicate plagiarism". The OAI has conducted training workshops for university staff to spot when work might be plagiarised and use Turnitin when suspicion arose.

"We want to graduate competent students with ethics," Dr Zitawi said. "We will never accept cheating, manipulation and deception, and those students who cheat will not receive a second chance."