"A little leaven corrupteth the whole lump": academic cheating as a hindrance to achieving quality in higher education


academic cheating
educational assessment
higher education quality


Academic cheating (academic dishonesty) is of increasing concern in international higher education. One common form of academic cheating is plagiarism, which some local higher education institutions have confronted through training and employing detection software. However, in reality, academic cheating is a complex construct that extends far beyond plagiarism to include a wide range of student beliefs, attitudes, and practices that act to corrupt recorded achievement scores. From an educational measurement perspective, individual academic cheating and other irregularities in test practices contribute to construct-irrelevant variance, which invalidates decisions based on assessment warrants. Assessment warrants are generalisations about achievement captured in certificates, diplomas, and other credentials. Therefore, from a quality assurance perspective, high levels of academic cheating within an institution will prove a threat to quality and must be explicitly addressed in internal and external quality assurance schemes. In this paper, we consider the issue of academic cheating in Trinidad and Tobago centred on a study of three different higher education institutions. We explored students' perceptions of cheating along with motivations and student practices. These findings are used to reflect on the role of tertiary institutions and accreditation agencies in managing this important quality-related issue.

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