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Academic dishonesty is a long-term problem of society in general, not only in higher education – that was the message of the conference How worried are we by the academic (dis)honesty of students?, held on 25 November in Zagreb, organised by the Agency for Science and Higher Education, with the aim of opening a debate about various forms of academic dishonesty among students in Croatia, and its consequences, trends and possible solutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes, as well as challenges to the education sector, including a sudden shift of classes from classrooms to digital platforms, which indicated the importance of academic integrity and rectitude more than ever, mr. sc. Sandra Bezjak, Acting Director of ASHE, highlighted during the opening of the event.

The lecturers spoke about student dishonesty, comparing the situation in Croatia and the world, as well as the national rules and their application; dr. sc. Rudolf Kiralj (Bjelovar University of Applied Sciences) and prof. dr. sc. Ivana Kunda (Faculty of Law of the University of Rijeka).

Academic dishonesty in Croatia is far more common compared to the world average, especially if countries such as Sweden, Canada, and USA are taken into consideration. International surveys show a correlation between academic and professional dishonesty, and between corruption and economic development, thus showing a higher degree of academic dishonesty in less developed countries, as dr. sc. Rudolf Kiralj explained.

The most common forms of academic dishonesty among students are improper citation, copying during the exams, plagiarism, misrepresentation, etc., while the causes of such behaviour are related to teaching methods, behaviour of the teacher, but also a wider socio-economic environment that tolerates unfairness.

“If we want different results, we need to stop acting the same,” said prof. dr. sc. Ivana Kunda, adding that this primarily entails systematic education and raising awareness of both the students and the teachers about the importance of academic and professional integrity.

As a part of the conference, a roundtable discussion was held, with the participation of prof. dr. sc. Ana Tkalac Verčič (Faculty of Economics of the University of Zagreb), doc. sr. sc. Sven Marcelić (Department of Sociology of the University of Zadar), Jurica Đurić (College for Information Technology), President of the Croatian Student Assembly Bruna Bandula (Faculty of Science of the University of Zagreb) and student Vida Žagar (University of VERN). The panellists agreed that academic dishonesty has not been given sufficient attention, considering its wider social and economic consequences, and that undesirable behaviour should be properly sanctioned, but not without providing a systematic education for all stakeholders.

Conclusions of the Conference

  • There is a higher incidence of academic dishonesty in Croatia (80.9% of students cheating in exams, 87.3% plagiarising) compared to the world average (67.8%), especially in relation to countries such as the USA (4.8 % of students), Canada (6.4% of students) and Sweden (1.1% of students).
  • Academic dishonesty has negative consequences for society: professional dishonesty, corruption, crime, and lagging behind in economic development.
  • The most common forms of academic dishonesty among students are: copying the seminars of other students or authored articles without mentioning the source, replacing words or paraphrasing in order to bypass plagiarism detectors, copying the structure of another work, using earlier works, paying for the entire work, cheating in face-to-face or remote exams, misrepresentation, etc.
  • The most common causes of dishonesty are: teaching methods and knowledge acquisition methods; teacher behaviour, wider socio-economic environment, and social relations (tolerance towards dishonesty).
  • Prevention of dishonesty can be through strengthening a culture of academic integrity in higher education institutions, and sanctioning unwanted acts and behaviours.
  • Higher education institutions should clearly communicate the values of academic integrity, promote the positive aspects of academic honesty among students, and develop clear procedures and policies related to academic integrity.
  • The day-to-day work of Croatian higher education institutions shows that regulations defining and describing academic integrity and appropriate behaviour, as well as their practical implementation, are often divergent.

  • Recommendations for higher education institutions:
  1. Strengthen the student education on academic integrity (at the beginning and during their studies)
  2. Strengthen the teacher education on academic integrity
  3. Reduce the opportunities for students to plagiarize work (e.g. changing the type of work and/or devise creative tasks, involving the students in research and events, etc., fostering the development of academic writing skills)
  4. Reduce the risk of teacher not noticing the plagiarism (conducting a realistic evaluation of work, reducing the work’s quantity and focusing on its quality, monitor/verify various stages of work creation, not only the final result)
  5. Appropriate use of antiplagiarism software
  6. Consistently report the infringing students
  7. Application of appropriate sanctions
  8. Strengthen an institutional culture of intolerance towards academic dishonesty
  9. Include academic integrity among the strategic goals, and monitor it with appropriate indicators.

 Presentations:

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