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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Non-UiTM theses in its e-library a red flag for plagiarism


COMMENT Academic cheating or plagiarism comes in many forms in institutions of higher learning.
There are strict rules and regulations that forbid academic cheating, the infamous one being stealing or lifting the academic work of other(s) and using it as though it is your own.
Deposition of academic papers or theses from their place of origin into universities or colleges in Malaysia can be considered as another serious form of academic cheating.
On this matter, the University Technology Mara (UiTM) is hogging the limelight for the wrong reasons.
The deposition of MBA theses project papers from the University of Bath, United Kingdom, into UiTM’s online repository system represents a gross form of academic cheating.
If an inquiry which has been ordered by the university confirms that such a thing took place, then it would be a shame and a setback to tertiary educational system in Malaysia.
How did this happen?
Apparently, one of the students who graduated in 1994 from the University of Bath and Malaysian Institute of Management MBA Executive programme found to his dismay that his thesis had been located in the UiTM’s online library without his nor his alma mater’s permission.
Similarly, the theses of other 14 students who graduated from the same group were also found in UiTM’s repository with the institution’s logo and copyright.
The availability of these theses in the UiTM’s repository gave the impression that there was an academic collaboration with the students of University of Bath.
According to this former student, the deposition of academic theses in UiTM without the permission of the students or the University of Bath represents a gross form of violation of intellectual property rights.
UiTM’s vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Hassan Said has called for an inquiry to ascertain whether UiTM had committed any breach of intellectual property rights.
He promised that if the inquiry establishes that there were some wrongdoings, then the administration would not hesitate to take serious action against those who were responsible for this.
While the words of Hassan are reassuring, the revelations beg the question: why did UiTM, supposedly one of the premier academic institutions, allow this thing to happen in the first place?
Are there rules and procedures in Malaysian public universities that will stem the occurrence of these kinds of academic cheating?
Damper on achievement
Academic cheating or plagiarism is something that has to be taken very seriously.
It is a damper on the academic achievement of students and researchers.
Although I am not sure about the extent of plagiarism in Malaysian universities and colleges, but the problem exists and needs to be addressed.
But unfortunately, those who are administering universities and colleges somehow or rather, sweep problems of plagiarism under the carpet for fear that it might tarnish the academic standing of their institutions.

In public universities, lecturers have been promoted even though they have been accused of academic cheating.
What happened at UiTM might be a tip of the iceberg.
The Ministry of Education needs to undertake a major study to find out the extent of academic cheating in institutions of higher learning in Malaysia.
Is the ministry bold enough to make this move?

P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and the DAP state assemblyperson for Perai.

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