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Issues in learning and teaching: Academic integrity

As students engage as active learners, and academics engage in teaching and research, we assume that everyone will act with academic integrity. This concept is closely aligned with assessment.

In Step 3.4 we looked at the role of summative assessment in:

  • passing judgement on the standard of a student’s learning generally in terms of assigned marks and grades
  • credentialing students (for degrees and professional practice).

Some students may consider assessment as a ‘high-stakes’ or risky activity. They want to obtain a pass grade and may engage in academic dishonesty, contract cheating or plagiarism. Students plagiarise for many reasons including poor time-management, inadequate research or underdeveloped writing skills (UNSW, 2014).

Reflection point:

What does plagiarism mean to you?

What is academic integrity?

In the past decade, the higher education sector has moved away from the punitive and negative concepts of plagiarism, academic dishonesty, violations and misconduct, towards the concepts of conduct and academic integrity. In Australia academic integrity has become a high profile issue with recent increases in cheating, the MyMaster scandal and fake diploma mills (Bretag, 2015) resulting in some universities revoking degrees.

At UNSW (2016) academic integrity is described as

‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It is necessary for ethical scholarship and is the fundamental belief system within any university community and is highly valued at UNSW.’

More broadly, the International Centre for Academic Integrity (ICAI) has defined academic integrity as

‘a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.’ (Fishman, 2014)

Reflection point:

Do the six values of academic integrity (Fishman, 2014) align with your conceptualisation of acting with academic integrity?

Academic integrity is important as it is

‘…a fundamental component of success and growth in the classroom. It prepares students for personal and professional challenges as well as providing a blueprint for future fulfillment and success.’ (ICAI, n.d.)

Working with academic integrity

Most organisations will have codes, policies, procedures and guidelines related to academic integrity. You may discover that there are multiple related policies in your organisation. The example of UNSW illustrates the range of documents that may exist.

UNSW Plagiarism Policy Statement

Research Code of Conduct

Student Code

Staff Code of Conduct

Procedure for Handling Allegations of Research Misconduct

Managing Plagiarism for Students Enrolled in Coursework Programs - Procedure

Student Misconduct Procedure

Assessment procedure

Reducing plagiarism / Learning and teaching Assessment design

‘Academic integrity is an educational not a compliance issue’ (Bretag, 2015) and aligned with this stance UNSW offers support for their students on their Learning Centre website. Your institution may offer similar resources for staff and students.


Bretag, T. (2015). Contract cheating and assessment design: Is there a connection? Higher Education Compliance & Quality Forum 4-5 November 2015, Melbourne.

ICAI (nd). Why integrity. International Center for Academic Integrity.

Fishman, T. (Ed) (2014). The fundamental values of academic integrity. 2nd edition. Clemson University: International Center for Academic Integrity.

UNSW. (2016). ‘Working with Academic Integrity’ online module

UNSW. (2014). How Does Plagiarism Happen?

Academic Integrity Standards Project

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic of academic integrity there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf document for this step.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney