THE NUMBER of exam sittings that result in cases of cheating or misconduct is decreasing at the University of Exeter. A Freedom of Information request (FOI) submitted by Exeposé has revealed that only 89 cases of cheating were discovered during the January and summer exam periods of 2012/13. This figure represents a decrease of 35.5 per cent (138 cases) from 2010/11 and a reduction of 44.7 per cent (161 cases) from 2011/12. Over 58,000 examinations sittings were recorded on Exeter campuses in the January and summer exam periods in 2012/13 alone.
However, Exeter’s proportion of examination papers involving cheating in 2012/13 (0.15 per cent), is high when compared with other Russell Group universities. Exeposé surveyed the Russell Group with the same request, and of those that complied, Exeter recorded among the higher percentages of incidences of cheating. In 2012/13, the University of Liverpool recorded only 33 incidences, despite having a larger student body and sitting 27,095 more exams. The University of Exeter’s rate of 0.15 per cent cheated examinations in 2012/13 is also far higher than Newcastle University’s 0.05 per cent, the University of Leeds’s 0.01 per cent and the University of York’s 0.01 per cent.
The number of students failing exams also appears to be on the rise, year on year. In 2012/13, 14.6 per cent of exam sittings were failed, compared to 14.1 per cent in 2011/12 and 13.3 per cent in 2010/11. Again, the University of Exeter compares higher than its Russell Group competitors, with Queen Mary University of Belfast recording only 10.7 per cent failed examinations and the University of Leeds recording 6.8 per cent. Within these figures, ‘Pass’ and ‘Fail’ is a measure of whether or not they met the normal pass mark for the exam. As such condoned passes are treated as fails in this data but will have resulted in a pass of the exam component.
The Freedom of Information request also revealed that in 2013, 1,200 students had to sit a referred or deferred Exeter based examination, of which there were 2,534 occurences. The University of Exeter advises on its website to those requiring referred/deferred examinations: “Should you miss referred/deferred examinations, you are likely to be deemed withdrawn from the University, unless you provide valid medical evidence confirming your inability to sit your exam”.
Professor Mark Overton, Dean of Taught Programmes, said: “We take all forms of exam misconduct and cheating extremely seriously. We have improved our processes for detecting incidences of misconduct and/or cheating, and this year we ran a campaign to make sure that students were fully aware of the rules and the consequences of breaking them. We are very pleased that this is leading to a reduction of offences at Exeter. We believe that we are particularly effective at identifying misconduct, which may be why our incidence rate is comparatively high”.
Vice-President Academic Affairs, Alex Louch, said: “The Students’ Guild has worked with the University over a number of years to address exam misconduct, and I am happy to see continued improvement. However, I recognise that Russell Group universities demand the highest standards, and I am confident that ongoing measures taken by the University in collaboration with the Guild will continue to address standards of exam practice.”
A third year English student told Exeposé: “It is pleasing to see the number of cases of cheating in university exams at Exeter is decreasing, especially when you consider our contextually high rate of exam discrepancies in relation to the rest of the Russell Group”.