The number of students caught cheating at top universities has surged over the past three years, figures reveal.
Thousands were found guilty of plagiarising, taking notes into exams or buying essays on the internet.
Nearly 1,700 students at 20 leading institutions were disciplined for academic misconduct in the year 2010-11 alone, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Around 100 were expelled.
Offences on the rise include cutting and pasting essays from the internet, bringing mobile phones into exams, impersonating other candidates and copying from classmates.
At Oxford University, one student was fined £100 for taking revision notes into an exam, while last year Cambridge stripped a graduate of his history PhD for ‘multiple instances of plagiarism’.
Cambridge also revealed instances of cheating recorded during this academic year, including the case of a land economy student who had their degree reduced from a 2.1 to a 2.2 after being found with a textbook in the exam hall.
And last October a medicine student was found guilty of plagiarism after using material from a sample exercise published as a learning resource.
The Freedom of Information request was sent to the country’s top 30 universities, as ranked by the indepen- dent Complete University Guide 2012. Of those, 20 supplied figures.
The University of Lancaster had the worst record with 194 incidents of cheating during the last academic year – up from 175 in 2009-10.
It was followed by the University of East Anglia, which recorded 187 incidents of academic misconduct compared with 175 the year before.
Bath reported 182 incidents, a sharp rise from 66 in 2009-10.
Newcastle, where Princess Eugenie is studying history of art, English and politics, had 166 incidents – marginally down from 169 the year before.
‘Academic misconduct’ covers a range of offences including plagiarism, submitting work bought from essay banks, handing in the same piece of work for separate assignments and impersonating another student.
Sanctions range from docked marks to expulsion.
In the last academic year alone, 100 students were expelled from the 20 universities for serious academic misconduct. King’s College London has expelled the most – 44 over the past three years.
In the last academic year, 1,665 students were found guilty of academic misconduct, a slight fall from 2009-10 when the figure stood at 1,849 students from 21 universities.
The year before, 1,597 students were disciplined for the offence, making a total of 5,111 over the past three years.
The surge in cheating has been attributed in part to the cut-throat job market, which is piling pressure on graduates to do well.
There has also been an explosion in the number of websites that sell coursework – and universities are becoming more adept at spotting such plagiarism, thanks to specialist software.
The figures will fuel concerns over slipping academic standards, at a time when universities are also facing criticism for dumbing down degrees.
A report last month found that English universities are ‘not keeping pace’ with international standards.
For example, some have dropped maths from certain degree courses because students and their lecturers cannot cope with it.
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