Remote exams are driving a surge in cheating accusations as students are tempted to pay for answers or use WhatsApp groups to share information, legal experts have warned.
Kingsley Napley said there was a 60 per cent increase in students seeking help to defend themselves against cheating allegations this year. The law firm has received more than 60 enquiries relating to academic misconduct this year, of which 23 were made in September alone.
During one online exam, a student had used a website Chegg.com, where you can upload an exam question and see if anyone has answered it before or give you pointers, said lawyers. The university was alerted that the student had uploaded the question using their university email address and launched a case of academic misconduct, even though the student had not used the answer.
In another case, an investigation was launched by a university after it spotted that two students had submitted work from the same IP address. They were in the same flat and could not prove they were working in separate rooms.
In a separate incident, students doing an online exam were sharing tips in a WhatsApp group when one of the students got cold feet and shared the messages with the university.
Lawyers at Kingsley Napley have also seen incidents where students have paid companies thousands of pounds for an essay or project to pass off as their own.
They said that companies are popping up more frequently advertising exam and essay help to students. In one case, when there was a dispute between the company and a student about payment, the company said it would tell the university that its student was using its services, which resulted in an investigation.
Students caught cheating 'could face expulsion'
Shannett Thompson, a lawyer at Kingsley Napley, said the firm has seen a large number of enquiries from international students, who have already paid significant fees to study in the UK and whose visas rest on staying at university.
She warned that universities need to be more fervent in warning students against cheating and said cheating investigations varied at different universities.
“We still haven’t got a proper structure where universities are abiding by the same code," she said.
The variable fairness of investigations, the way they are conducted and how long they take are a “real issue”, she added. Investigations can take up to six months, which can result in students missing a significant amount of teaching.
A spokesman for Universities UK, which represents 140 institutions, said: “All universities have codes of conduct that include penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own.
“Universities have become increasingly experienced at dealing with these issues and are engaging with students from day one to underline the implications of cheating and how it can be avoided.
“Students found to be cheating could face expulsion, the loss of student visas and, in the case of essay mills, potentially being in breach of the law.”