Students who admitted plagiarism not asked to repeat course, college confirms


A THIRD-LEVEL college has moved to defend itself against allegations of plagiarism among students and a “dumbing down” of academic standards.

Sources at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) have acknowledged that students who admitted plagiarism were not asked to repeat a course. Sources also admit that the marks for one master’s degree student were increased from a fail to a pass (33 to 40 per cent) on appeal.

The college has issued a statement denying academics had boycotted a graduation ceremony for engineering students last week because of concerns about standards; the college was responding to a report in the Galway City Tribune about the alleged boycott.

The controversy was triggered by an e-mail widely circulated to reporters yesterday which alleged inter-county footballers at the institute were given preferential treatment in some exams. The college has also vehemently denied these charges. Former Mayo football manager John O’Mahoney confirmed late last week that there were no GMIT students on the 2010 senior championship panel.

The allegations relates to two courses – one at postgraduate and one at undergraduate level. Three students who admitted to plagiarism were not asked to repeat the exam and allowed to continue their course. The college insisted last night this was a “proportionate response”.

In relation to a master’s course, the institute said two students made appeals to the Examinations Appeals Board about concerns they had regarding supervisory support for their theses. Their concerns were upheld.

One of these students had appealed the result and the appeal was upheld. The result went from a fail to a pass for the thesis. The marks for the student in question were increased from 33 to 40.

In the second case, the student appealed the overall award grade and the appeal was successful.

A third student appealed the exam result. The appeals board declined to consider the appeal and advised the student to seek a review of the mark awarded by an independent external examiner. This review is under way.

At undergraduate level, allegations of plagiarism were made against seven students in relation to one module which accounted for 10 per cent of the total mark.

In its statement, the college says: “A disciplinary committee, who investigated the case, found that three students had provided the same assignment, by their own admission. The penalty imposed was zero mark for that assignment. The disciplinary committee believed this to be a proportionate response to the breach of assessment regulations.” The case against the other four students was not proven.

In relation to an alleged boycott, the college said: “Neither GMIT, the registrar nor the head of department received any notification that staff were boycotting the conferring session. GMIT is aware that one staff member was unhappy with the decision of the disciplinary committee in respect of the allegation of plagiarism.”

The controversy is the latest in a series of incidents that raise questions about academic standards in the institute of technology sector. Earlier this year, 100 students who failed part of their final exam at Cork institute were upgraded.

In June the results of 36 students who failed an exam at the Tralee institute were set aside.