Overseas students face disproportionately more academic tribunals

Overseas students at the University of York are 250% as likely to be involved in an academic tribunal than their British peers, according to figures obtained by Nouse

Overseas students at the University of York are 2.5 times more likely to be involved in an academic tribunal than their British peers, according to figures obtained by Nouse.

In the past academic year 12 undergraduate overseas students were involved in an academic tribunal, amounting for 1.73% of all undergraduate overseas students at the University. The equivalent figure for undergraduate home students was only 0.68%.

Overseas students, who make up only 8.7% of the University’s total undergraduate student population, accounted for over 20% of the number of academic appeal cases handled by YUSU between September 2006 and July 2007.

The figures also show a worrying proportion of Health Sciences students involved in academic appeals. Of the 19 cases currently being handled by YUSU, 17 concern students from the Health Sciences department, which has a total student population of around 900.

Anne-Marie Canning, YUSU President and acting Academic and Welfare Officer, said: “The figures are of great concern. An academic misconduct hearing can be a frightening experience. I hope that in the future, through better introductory sessions, the University and YUSU can work together to reduce the number of home and international students going through them.”

While the majority of cases currently being handled by YUSU are Health Sciences students of UK origin, Canning predicts the amount involving overseas students will increase during the term: “Over the next few weeks we expect to get about three cases a week, and based on previous trends, most will be over­­­­seas students… Health Sciences students and overseas students are the groups that we see the most.”

“We need to resolve this, we need to ensure that the support is there and the induction is there [for overseas students] to stop problems later on,” added Canning.
Rosie Li, President of the Overseas Student Association, said: “I am aware that there is a disproportionate amount of academic appeals involving international students. But I do believe that the University is providing sufficient help for international students.”

“I think that the University has been trying to provide as much help as possible. The only problem is that it maybe needs to be publicised more. It also depends on if the international student is active, if they are seeking for help with their problems,” continued Li.

Canning, however, believes that more must be done to help overseas students with their studies. “While the University has taken some initial steps to improve academic support for international students, there is a lot more do be done considering the high fees that they are paying,” Canning said.

Nouse contacted Jane Gren­ville, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Stu­dents, but she was unable to comment at the time of going to print. Fran Collins, International Student Support Co-ordinator was also unable to comment on the issue.

A University spokesperson said: “We are still analysing the information around this issue, and until that exercise is completed, it would be inappropriate to
comment further.”

Academic appeal cases are commonly launched by students to refute the outcome of an academic misconduct hearing, which could involve accusations of exam cheating, plagiarism or collusion. YUSU figures include both academic appeal and misconduct tribunals.

Figures from other universities show a similar trend. Leeds University Student Union’s 2007 QAA report referenced the “disproportionate number of international students accused of plagiarizing”. The report states: “to date in 2006/7, 13 out of 16 plagiarism cases were international students.”

The NUS have recently laun­ched a campaign to assist student unions in forming programs to advise students of the dangers of plagiarism. The briefing document reserves particular mention for overseas students.

“It is a concern for many students, but particularly acute for international students, many of whom come from different academic traditions and backgrounds,” said Wes Streeting, NUS Vice-President (Education).

“Institutions need to work doubly hard to ensure that they support international students… Punishment after the fact will not improve their learning experience, or help them change their practice,” continues Streeting.

YUSU is planning its plagiarism campaign for week three of next term. The U­niversity has also created an online plagiarism tutorial set to go live next term. Students will be required to view a plagiarism tutorial before completing an online test. It is thought that the tutorial and test will be provided in both English and Mandarin.

Canning said: “Any student who is experiencing academic difficulties or is called to an academic misconduct hearing is encouraged to approach the union for advice and representation.” Students are encouraged to email acwelf­@yusu.org for more information.