This is a guest blog post written by NCISU President, Dajana Sinik, to mark National Academic Integrity Week 19th to 23rd October 2020. Dajana shares her thoughts on this important topic along with a number of useful resources for any NCI student who needs academic support and assistance.
As we reach the end of the first National Academic Integrity Week, I hope that you are now more familiar with what ‘Academic Integrity’ means. Here is a recap on the messaging of the past week, clarifying the fundamental principles that could keep you safe on your academic journey.
If questions are raised about a student’s Academic Integrity – about the honesty and originality of their academic submissions that account towards a degree - the College will investigate. If a student is found to have plagiarised or cheated, they will be guilty of Academic Misconduct, and face NCI’s Disciplinary Board. The role of the Students’ Union in the disciplinary process is to observe that fair procedure has been followed, offer advice to students where necessary, and ensure students are given the right to appeal.
Why your own work matters
Unfortunately, there are cases of misconduct. Even in this last year, NCI’s Disciplinary Boards have enforced its strict Academic Misconduct policies and imposed penalties such as: requiring a student to repeat modules; suspension - which involves a one year pause in their studies; and expulsion, which removes them from enrolment at NCI.
Disciplinary Boards exist not just to punish those who have breached Academic Integrity, but also to protect all of you who are working honestly towards your degree, maintaining the trust in and value of your qualification in the wider world.
In 2019, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) introduced the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Amendment Act 2019, which enables QQI to prosecute anyone who assists those who facilitate academic cheating. On foot of this, the National Academic Integrity Network was formed to champion academic integrity, promote good academic practices amongst staff and students and combat academic misconduct. I sit on the National Academic Integrity Network, alongside a member of the College management team and other academic institutions and Student Unions.
Reach to us for help, avoid 'contract cheating'
This year, we agreed to use National Academic Integrity Week to shine a light on one specific form of unethical behaviour, which is rare in NCI’s experience, but which is becoming a more widespread temptation with the move to remote learning.
‘Contract Cheating’ is a relatively new phenomenon, and many of you may not understand the full negative implications of engaging in it. Online providers, known as ‘Essay Mills’ offer learners assignments, theses/dissertations and various project work, in exchange for a fee. With the transition to an online learning environment, these providers are specifically targeting college students, offering a service that may even present itself as legitimate; however, the reality is that the consequences of purchasing any work online may not just hinder the value of a student’s degree but have farther-reaching, long-term impacts.
Students should be cautious about giving any personal information to these types of services, as it leaves them vulnerable to spam from unethical markets and, at worst, exploitation or blackmail.
If you are approached by an online provider, consider the impacts it could have on your future and don’t be tempted by what might seem like an easy way out. Report the essay mill to QQI, where you can also find more information on Academic Integrity.
I encourage you, if you need advice or guidance on good academic practice, reach out to your lecturer, to the Library, to Support Services, to your Class Rep; the College wants you to succeed and will support you to reach your own full potential, without the need for cheating.
Stay safe, wherever you are, stay connected with each other and the NCI community, and remember, originality is key to the integrity of your degree!
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
NCI Students’ Union President