Thousands of UK nursing students caught cheating on courses

Nursing students are disproportionately more likely to cheat during their university studies than any other student group, according to new research.

Thousands of UK nursing students have undergone disciplinary action for cheating in their university studies, new figures have revealed.

UK universities have punished at least 1,706 nursing students in the past three academic years for offences such as plagiarism, collusion and impersonating other students.

According to data obtained by the Times from 61 institutions under the Freedom of Information Act, nursing students are disproportionately more likely to cheat than other students.

Essays for sale

Plagiarism expert Thomas Lancaster told the Times that nursing essays by the ‘high hundreds or low thousands’ were sold to students through companies each year in the UK.

RCN professional lead for education Anne Corrin said deliberate cheating was completely unacceptable, but said many nursing students might not be familiar enough with academic conventions.

‘The majority of plagiarism cases are down to a student’s unfamiliarity with academic writing conventions, including a failure to understand the importance of accurate referencing,' she said.

'Nursing students come from a variety of educational backgrounds: they may not have as much experience of writing academically.’

Academic skills

Ms Corrin added it was important nursing students were educated and supported to develop academic skills.

Almost 300 nursing students were caught cheating at Edinburgh Napier University but fewer than five were referred for investigation by fitness to practise panels, according to the report.

The university said it had many more nursing students than any other UK provider.

‘Often plagiarism owes much more to naivety than dishonesty and so we focus on educating students on good practice in their written work,’ a university spokesperson told the Times.

Plagiarism taken seriously

A Council of Deans of Health spokesperson told Nursing Standard the numbers represented a small minority of the 70,000 nursing students in UK universities.

The spokesperson said: ‘Although any instance of plagiarism is a cause for concern, these figures over three years represent a tiny minority of students, fewer than 1% per year.

‘The vast majority of students work hard, are honest and are a credit to their future profession.

‘While it is obviously worrying if websites are deliberately targeting nursing students, these numbers are also a sign that universities take plagiarism seriously and are willing to tackle it.’

'No place for cheats'

An NMC spokesperson said it was the responsibility of academic institutions to ensure individuals had legitimately passed all parts of their courses.

‘There is no place for cheats in nursing or midwifery,' the spokesperson added.

‘Academic institutions must have systems in place to identify and swiftly address concerns about the conduct of any nursing or midwifery student, including cheating and plagiarism.’

Further information

(£) Thousands of nurses cheat in exams

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