Degrees of cheating : an exploration of student academic dishonesty in Australian universities

  • Helen Marsden

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    It can be argued that perceptions of the quality of the nation's universities are fundamental to Australia's economy. At a time when universities are competing more and more in a global marketplace, reputation is a key factor in attracting students, and therefore funding. When reputations are called into question, the sustainability of institutions becomes uncertain. Scandals surrounding academic dishonesty in Australia have not been uncommon in recent years. In response, universities have demonstrated an increasing awareness of the problem and a move toward updating or instigating policies to deal with it. However, the evidence base for such policy development is scant. Outside the USA, there have been few studies of academic dishonesty and virtually no large-scale, multi-campus research. The present research was designed to provide such an evidence base. Three studies were conducted to explore the extent and nature of dishonest academic behaviour, together with an investigation of factors which might precipitate students' engagement in these activities. In addition to variables which had previously been shown to be related to cheating, it was theorised that factors identified by General Strain Theory as being related to delinquency and general deviance, may also be associated with student cheating. A large-scale multi-campus survey was conducted (N= 9543; 11 universities). Findings were analysed to assess the extent of cheating amongst students and identify factors which contribute to these behaviours. Two qualitative studies followed which were designed to tap the experiences of, and understandings about, academic dishonesty of both staff and students. Overall the research established that levels of dishonest academic behaviours by the students in this study, while still worryingly high, are somewhat lower than those reported in the international literature. A number of risk factors for student engagement in dishonest behaviour were identified. Chief amongst these were the experience of stressful life events and the presence of dishonest peers. To a lesser, but still significant extent, were factors related to student age, year of enrolment, and field of study. Implications for addressing the problem at the level of policy development and strategic response are discussed.
    Date of Award2008
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDebra Rickwood (Supervisor) & Michelle Fleming (Supervisor)

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