Over the past few weeks, stories about university students cheating their way to success and lecturers letting them do so have been cropping up all over the country. The first case that caught my attention was about the students of Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) who were caught cheating three times and were still allowed to pass their courses. Unfortunately, according to former students and lecturers, this isn’t an isolated incident, and from what I can tell, it is pretty much standard practice. Articles from several sources point to pressure being put on teachers to pass students. Wow, even when they’re caught cheating?

An education survey that included 1,006 lecturers from various different universities and institutes found that 65% felt pressured into giving students a passing grade. MIT’s branch president Jill Jones told the New Zealand Herald that her department was given a target of 85% pass rate and those that couldn’t reach that target would be grilled in their next performance evaluation. If that’s true, then it’s that’s a huge blow; not just to the universities that are allowing this to happen, but to the students that study really hard to complete assignments and pass exams the right way. What message does this send to them? That’s it’s okay to cheat? That the degree they’ve worked so hard for is handed out easily to just anyone? What does it also say to the employers? That the students from MIT, or other tertiary providers with cheating cases, have degrees that aren’t worth the papers that they’re written on? It damages the chances of those students who genuinely worked hard and sacrificed to earn their qualifications. And most importantly, what does this say to the ‘learning culture’ of New Zealand students? That when students cheat and get caught, they get away with it?

Unitec has encountered the same dilemma and recently released a statement about it (which you can read here). So how do these tertiary providers fix this? How do we students fix this? I wish I had a concrete solution to offer, but no, I don’t. I have questions, and I bet you have a lot as well. It feels like, with these reports, we can’t be trusted by employers anymore. Will they eye us with suspicion and wonder if the qualifications we have are real or we cheated to get them? I know for a fact that this is a huge problem and if left unchecked, it will damage the reputation that New Zealand has for producing quality graduates and future employees.

Words by Kerry Lee.