The number of students caught cheating at Queen's University has undergone a significant rise in the last year, new figures show.
According to data revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, 190 students were disciplined for academic misconduct in the 2010-2011 period.
This is a substantial increase on the previous academic year, when just 116 students were disciplined.
The most common form of misconduct in this period was plagiarism, or an attempt by a student to pass another person's work off as their own. Queen's University uses TurnitinUK software — in common with 95% of UK universities — to detect matches between a student's work and online sources.
A former lecturer at Queen's University — who did not wish to be named — said that these new methods of detection were exposing the scale of plagiarism at universities: “Plagiarism has always been a problem. The reason that so many more students are being disciplined for it now is likely to be the introduction of technology in the detection process.
“Almost all students have to hand in an electronic copy of their work now. You have to apply the same rules to everybody, so if somebody's work is tagged by this technology you have to bring them in — even if you're almost certain the misconduct was accidental.
“Lots of people plagiarise unconsciously, and this isn't helped by the increasing habit of people doing all their research online. Of course there are also very deliberate incidents. I had one student who submitted an essay which was a direct copy of another member of staff's work.”
Nuala McAdams, vice-president for education at the Students’ Union, said: “Plagiarism is plagiarism, whether it's unintentional or not. That's the bottom line.”
A spokesman for Queen's University said: “Students are made aware of the seriousness of cheating, both at their induction and at workshops.
“At those workshops we inform students that the university is fully aware of the issues around plagiarism and takes the matter seriously. A range of penalties may be applied where an offence has been found to occur.”