The number of students caught cheating at the UK’s top universities has shot up by a third in three years, with experts warning that institutions are ignoring the problem.
Figures compiled by the Guardian from freedom of information requests to Russell Group universities – a group of 24 leading institutions that includes Oxford and Cambridge – shows the number of academic misconduct cases surged by 30%, from 2,640 to 3,721, between the academic years 2014-15 and 2016-17.
Experts have expressed concern about the findings.
Thomas Lancaster, a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London and one of the UK’s leading experts on essay cheating, said: “A growing number of young people also feel more pressure than ever before, often turning to cheating to help them get through their degrees. It’s also easier to access websites that offer paid-to-order essays.”
Lancaster said universities were getting better at recording incidents, but that they were often inconsistent in how they tackled cheating, with many “assuming it’s not their problem”.
Leeds University recorded one of the biggest rises in reports of cheating. Cases more than doubled from 181 to 433, in three years. At the University of Glasgow, the number shot up from 161 to 394.
A Leeds University spokesperson said it had improved processes for collecting information about academic misconduct cases.
A spokesperson for Glasgow University said it had clear and robust procedures in place to deal with cases of academic misconduct that were reviewed regularly.
The figures come as government concern grows about contract cheating, where students employ ghostwriters to complete assignments.
The then universities minister Jo Johnson announced a crackdown a year ago, but since then only a handful of the 24 Russell Group universities recorded details of contract cheating separately. Most have not updated their academic misconduct processes in the last year, although a number are reviewing them.