Many overseas students in Oz copied their masters thesis: report

 

The fresh scam exposed by 'The Australian' newspaper said several overseas students, including Indians, were found to have graduated from University of New England with copied masters thesis which gave them better chance of getting permanent residency.


The paper said some of the students were allowed to graduate even after a probe began into the scam. The scandal was more prevalent for a master programme in the Information Technology offered by the New South Wales University.


This has been an attractive course for students hoping for permanent residency as skilled migrants, the paper said.


According to the report, most of the students were from the Indian subcontinent but their characteristic English was interspersed with polished American and British English.


When contacted, a University spokesman said most of the students were from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.


The degree, begun with a commercial partner in 2004, turned out 220 plagiarised thesis of the 230 that were checked. To date, no UNE staff member responsible for the programme has been publicly held to account. The course was taught by the Melbourne Institute of Technology - UNE's partner.

Material for one thesis had been lifted from 'The Guardian' newspaper in Britain and a US business magazine. Several other thesis were also found similar, the report said.


It said the whistle-blower, mathematician Imre Bokor, claimed that the official count was that 220 of 230 thesis were plagiarised.


"When I first let them know, there were fewer than 100 thesis involved. By the time they investigated, it had grown to 230," he said, adding that a visiting Polish academic alerted him in July 2006 to the abysmal standard of one of the first thesis to emerge from the programme, begun in 2004.


"I realised, just by reading the first page, it was obviously plagiarised," he said.

Bokor said he had already approached his two immediate superiors with concerns about poor standards in the programme and the risk of plagiarism. "They just pooh-poohed me and told me to go away," he said.


The report said that education commentators praised UNE vice-chancellor Alan Pettigrew for resolute action when he went public about the scandal in August 2007.


He said UNE would not "shy away from taking the most difficult steps" and might strip students of their degrees.


Bokor claimed plagiarism had been first raised in November 2006 and in just one case. But he said UNE had quickly established that "a significant proportion" of 210 thesis appeared to be plagiarised.

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