Engineering students and faculty perceptions of academic dishonesty

Date04 September 2017
Published date04 September 2017
AuthorSami W. Tabsh,Akmal S. Abdelfatah,Hany A. El Kadi
Engineering students and
faculty perceptions of
academic dishonesty
Sami W. Tabsh,Akmal S. Abdelfatah and Hany A. El Kadi
College of Engineering, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, UAE
Purpose This paper aims to survey studentsand faculty from the College of Engineering at an American
university in the United Arab Emirates about their perception on different issues related to academic
dishonesty. Opinions were soughton plagiarism, inappropriate collaboration, cheating on exams, copyright
violations and complicityin academic dishonesty. Reasons for students to commit dishonest acts and ways to
reduce academicmisconduct were also included.
Design/methodology/approach A survey involving 11 questions with multiple choiceanswers was
developed and distributedto engineering students and faculty at the institution to gettheir perception of the
Findings Resultsof the study showedthat while faculty and students were generally in agreement in their
perception of the frequency ofacademic dishonesty among students, they greatly differed on the coursesof
action needed to reduce them. Most faculty members favored applying tougher penalties and using more
proctors in exams. On the other hand, students preferred softer approaches such as educating them on
academicintegrity issues, applying lenient deadlines for assignmentsand reducing the difculty of exams.
Research limitations/implications The conclusions and recommendations of the study are
applicable to colleges of higher education having similar characteristics and culture to the surveyed
Practical implications The ndings can be used to understand studentsbehavior and facultys
attitudetoward academic dishonesty, and to assessthe effectiveness of current strategiesaddressing the issue
at similar universitiesin the region.
Originality/value The conductedliterature review indicated that this work is believed to be a pioneering
case study in the GulfCooperation Council countries.
Keywords Plagiarism, Misconduct, Cheating, Academic integrity, Dishonesty
Paper type Case study
1. Introduction
Nowadays, dishonesty has becomea serious phenomenon that has affected many aspects of
life. It has become deeply ingrained into media, economics, politics, business, technology
and education. Academic dishonesty is a grave act that not only affects the person who is
committing it but also the institution he/she is part of and the persons who are closeto the
situation. It leads to professional incompetence, degradation of ones ethical standards and
mistrust. Previous researchhas demonstrated a strong link between academic dishonestyat
the university level and future professional misconduct in the workplace (Sims, 1993;
McCabe et al.,1996;Hardinget al.,2004;Carpenter et al.,2006;Graves, 2008).
The authors would like to thank the administration at the American University of Sharjah for
approving and facilitating the survey. The opinions included in this study are of the authors and may
not represent the views of the institution.
Received 7 March 2017
Revised 29 June 2017
Accepted 10 July 2017
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.25 No. 4, 2017
pp. 378-393
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-03-2017-0005
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Academic integrity is the moral code of ethics in academia and includes standards, as
well as maintenance of academic values, honesty and thoroughness in teaching/learning,
research and academic publishing (Kirk, 1996). It requires commitment toward honesty,
trust, fairness, respect, courage and responsibility (ICAI, 2012). The responsibility for
promoting academic integrity rests on students, faculty and administrators. They all must
work together to create, sustain and encourage an environment that has high academic
standards and values with well-established policies, methodologies and codes of integrity.
Misconduct in the academic environment may take different forms including plagiarism,
multiple submission, fabrication, falsication, cheating and copyright infringement. To
protect the value of education on their campuses, college administrators and faculty are
responsible for providinga proper environment that can foster academichonesty and hinder
the widespread of dishonesty. This cannot be done without rst recognizing and afrming
academic integrity as a central value of the educational institution. Supporting students
responsibility toward academic integrity, decreasing opportunities to participate in
academic dishonesty and reacting to academic dishonesty when it happens can also help
fostering studenthonesty on campus (McCabe and Pavela, 2004).
Even though the majority of collegesand universities around the world strive to provide
proper settings to enhance academicintegrity on their campuses, there has recently been an
increase in the number of exposed high prole misconduct cases. Some of these cases
involved grade change (NPR 2004), exam copying (Poets and Quants, 2015), cheating (NY
Times, 2001, 2014; Orlando Sentinel, 2010), fake degrees (Inside Higher Ed, 2008),
inappropriate collaboration (The Harvard Crimson, 2012) and completing coursework on
behalf of others (NY Times,2000).
Most of the publishedresearch on academic dishonesty in the past has mainly considered
student behavior and opinions. Limited work is available on facultys perception of student
wrongdoing in the academic environment. Consequently, comparisons between students
attitudes and facultys viewsare scarce in the literature. Availability of such information for
an academic institutionmay help in creating strategies that can foster academic honesty.
2. Problem statement, objectives and scope
Previous studies on the subject have indicated that academic dishonesty is more common
among students majoring in engineering than others (Todd-Mancillas and Sisson, 1986;
McCabe and Trevino, 1997;Mattei, 2008;Carpenter et al.,2010;Bullard and Melvin, 2011).
Perceptions by students and facultyin the major do not always agree on what constitutes a
breach in academic dishonesty. Also, they may have different perspective on practical
measures to reduce the frequency of student misconduct on campus. Therefore, there is a
need for examining the differences and similarities between engineering students and
faculty perceptions on issues related to violations of the academic integrity code and
approaches to curb them. Such a study can help academic institutions in assessing their
strategies againststudentsmisbehavior and offer practical waysfor improving them.
The objective of this study is to pursue perception of engineering students and faculty
about numerous acts of academic dishonesty at an American university situated in the
Middle East. The study also presents the various measures proposed by students and
faculty in reducing the frequency of academic dishonesty. The scope of the research covers
undergraduate engineering studentsof all levels, majors and gender, as well as engineering
faculty of all ranks, majors and gender.
The uniqueness of the study stems from the fact that it addresses a population of
students and faculty at a unique Middle-Eastern institute following the American style of
education. The combinationof the location of the university, the type of students and faculty
students and

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