University of Newcastle releases plagiarism records

MORE than 200 University of Newcastle students were found guilty of serious acts of academic misconduct last year, including 140 caught for plagiarism.

At the same time one staff member raised allegations of plagiarism against four academics. Two academics were cleared by an investigation and a second investigation is still under way.

University management released the data yesterday after revelations in The Herald this week that it took more than five years for the institution to investigate plagiarism claims against two academics.

Senior lecturer Michelle Adams, who has been on suspension from the university since August, says not only were her 2003 claims not investigated, but that she was bullied for years after.

Dr Adams's case is listed in the Industrial Relations Commission this morning.

University of Newcastle plagiarism whistleblower Ian Firns said yesterday he was "highly disturbed" by the latest scandal.

Mr Firns prompted an ICAC inquiry into the university's cover-up of plagiarism by 15 full-fee-paying overseas students in 2003.

He said the fact that deputy vice-chancellor research Barney Glover requested an investigation into the latest matter in 2006 and it did not happen until last year was "a major concern".

"The real issue in the case I was involved in was the staff behaviour and a refusal to investigate the matter," Mr Firns said.

"If that continues . . . it seems that lessons were not learnt."

He said vast improvements had been made in student academic integrity, but was concerned there was not enough focus on staff.

A university spokeswoman said an "educative approach" was taken to academic integrity and that plagiarism was taken "very seriously".

Newcastle University Student Association education officer Jonathan Moylan said there were fears of a "dual standard" applied to plagiarism cases against students compared with staff.

"The university's response to the ICAC inquiry was to implement a lot stronger plagiarism controls," Mr Moylan said.

"It missed the issue, because the fact is that plagiarism was getting picked up before, it was just being ignored and this latest case raises a lot of concerns."

A university spokeswoman denied any dual standard.