University tackling exam cheats head on: chief
Plagiarism does not reflect badly on us, says vice-chancellor
The University of Hong Kong was dealing 'head on' with cheats in the law faculty's professional training programme, while trying to protect students from unfair exposure, vice-chancellor Tsui Lap-chee said yesterday.
Professor Tsui said plagiarism by law students was an isolated situation and did not reflect badly on the university.
'These things happen from time to time,' he said after a welcoming ceremony for new students.
'Now with information technology, it is so easy to find information and copy it. But we have good procedures to deal with such situations and we will not tolerate them. Integrity is most important.'
Sixteen students who sat this year's exam were investigated for plagiarism, varying in extent from slight to up to 98 per cent of the paper, sources told the Post.
One student was believed to have lied in his paper about having interviewed a magistrate for an assignment that required students to visit courts, write up their observations and suggest improvements.
Four of the 16 appeared before the university disciplinary committee. Two were expelled and two suspended, one for a year, and one for four months.
Professor Tsui said the university did not publicise the workings of the disciplinary committee to avoid unnecessarily punishing students.
'We are not trying to hide away but must distinguish between students and ordinary citizens - we cannot go out and tell everyone in the world who they are,' he said.
Law faculty dean Johannes Chan Man-mun said students may be asked to submit assignments with declarations that they have not plagiarised the work of others, similar to the practice for other programmes within the faculty.
'We hope to set the standard for others on how to deal with plagiarism, as it is something we all need to face in the education sector, not just in the law faculty,' he said.
Law Society president Michael Lintern-Smith praised the diligence of external examiners for discovering the plagiarism, saying it was a serious matter.
'I think these kinds of assessments are good because we want them to get real-life exposure and experience, so I don't think they should get rid of them,' he said. 'Plus, I'm pretty sure it's never going to happen again after all this.'
Barrister David Boyton, admitted to the Bar in 1997, said he was surprised and shocked at the cheating, but put it down to immaturity and 'stupidity'.