Internet cheats with burning pyjamas
Thousands of British teenagers are trying to cheat their way into university by plagiarising stories and phrases from the internet.
One in 20 of Britain’s brightest young brains is copying material from the web in an attempt to impress admission tutors, a snapshot study for Britain’s Universities and Colleges Admission Service (Ucas) has revealed.
The scale of ‘borrowing” was uncovered after an analysis of personal statements designed to help would-be students win places at universities of their choice by differentiating between candidates who get the required examination grades.
Personal statements are intended to allow applicants to show what makes them stand out from the crowd as they outline their interests and reasons for studying a particular course.
But it seems some potential great minds not only think alike but also sometimes use exactly the same words, thanks to an internet site designed to help those who don’t know what to write about themselves.
The study found that nearly 800 applications had personal statements containing phrases taken from three online examples. Ucas said 370 applications contained a statement including ‘a fascination for how the human body works”, 234 included the story of a dramatic incident involving ‘burning pyjamas at age eight” and 175 told of ‘an elderly or infirm grandfather”.
Ucas commissioned the study from CFL Software Development, authors of CopyCatch detection programmes, after the October 15 deadline for Ivy League universities, medicine, dentistry and veterinary science applications, competitive areas of study that have extremely high entry demands.
The study, which involved examining 50 000 personal statements, found that 5% used material from the internet, most from one free website, but direct copying of large chunks was rarer—less than 1%. Borrowed material was most likely to appear at the end of a statement or where the applicant described the reasons for wanting to study a subject.
Almost all applications are now completed online, but the new evidence of internet temptation follows concern that teenagers are cutting and pasting material for school coursework, a trend that has sparked new controls.
The chief executive of Ucas, Anthony McLaran, insisted the scale of the problem in university applications was limited and few students were paying to plagiarise. ‘We take the integrity of applications very seriously and commissioned this work to investigate the potential for screening applications for borrowed material in the future.”—