Research findings

Determination of good practice

An online student survey instrument was used in the study.The results of a large online student survey (n=15,304) delivered at the six Australian universities participating in the project indicated that a majority of respondents reported a good awareness of academic integrity and the relevant policy at their university (see Summary of survey responses). While 89.2% of students agreed that the academic integrity information they had received was sufficient, a smaller proportion (68.2%) agreed that the support and training on how to avoid  breaches was sufficient. Responses varied across different student cohorts and the results provide an opportunity to inform the higher education sector of the student perspective on communication and education about academic integrity.

Each of the six team member universities selected a student from a random draw to win an iPad2. More details with photos can be found here.

Based on the interview data, we found that understandings of academic integrity varied with academic practices as the most frequently mentioned.

Academic integrity is:
1. grounded in action;
2. underpinned by values;
3. multifaceted and applicable to multiple stakeholders;
4. understood by many in terms of what is not (misconduct); and
5. important as a means of assuring the quality and credibility of the educational process. (Bretag 2012)

Academic integrity policy:

Our analysis of academic integrity policies from 39 Australian universities indicates that:

  • 51% of the policies had ‘misconduct’ and ‘plagiarism’ as their key terms
  • 41% had ‘academic integrity’ as a key term
  • 28% had a mixed approach of both educative and punitive elements.
  • Only 39% of policies identified the institution as being responsible for academic integrity

While there has been a move away from a negative and punitive approach to a positive focus on integrity and education, more needs to be done, particularly in relation to policies with mixed messages.Our findings also point to the need for academic integrity policies to clearly indicate responsibilities for all academic integrity stakeholders, from an institutional perspective and beginning at the highest level (senior management), to teaching and professional staff and students. Many policies lacked basic information relating to types of breaches and associated outcomes/penalties with:

  • only 44% provided details relating to severity of breaches (minor/major)
  • most breaches were not defined
  • in 18% no breach outcomes were stated

We maintain that academic integrity is not solely a student issue or responsibility. We have identified five exemplary elements  of academic integrity policy with a commitment to developing a culture of academic integrity at the heart. A good policy needs to provide an upfront and consistent message, reiterated through the entire policy, which indicates a sytemic and sustained committment to the values of academic integrity and the practices that ensure it.

For further research findings please see our project papers.