A former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Peter Okebukola, while delivering a lecture in Kwara State recently, said that over 60 per cent of long essays written by undergraduates in their final year were plagiarised.
He also said the rate of plagiarism, as a form of academic corruption, at the Masters degree level was between 15 and 20 per cent, while it was eight per cent at the PhD level.
Okebukola didn’t stop there. He accused lecturers who showed up to teach only 10 out of their allotted 20 subjects in a semester and those who negotiated with students for marks, of being academically corrupt.
Our correspondent sought to find out why undergraduates had the largest number of plagiarised works and how to put an end to plagiarism in tertiary institutions.
In his reaction, a lecturer at the University of Benin, Dr Daniel Ekhareafo, revealed the tricks used by students to submit plagiarised long essays.
He said, “They could go to another school, get an old project and submit the topic to you for approval. After approval, they then copy the project. Some do not even know how to change the locations in the text. As a lecturer, you will notice that in most of the copied works there are very few mistakes. Also, the references don’t go beyond a particular year, 2010 for example, because that was probably when the copied work was done.”
Ekhareafo said the punishment given to students found to have plagiarised another author’s work range from giving the student a different topic to loss of studentship. However, it would help if other lecturers stopped interfering in the enforcement of disciplinary measures.
He said, “If the lecturer is nice, he could give the student a different topic and if he or she doesn’t finish before the end of the given period, the student will face the music. Otherwise, it is an examination offence and the student can be made to appear before a disciplinary panel and lose his or her studentship.
“But that rarely happens because the student can ask another lecturer to plead with the project supervisor and in some cases, the lecturer can compromise and ask for money in order to clear the student.”
A lecturer at Veritas University in Abuja, Prof. Hyacinth Ichoku, on his part, said the problem probably persisted because students were not taught the ethics of research.
“Some do it out of ignorance. They should be made to understand the penalties of this crime. Plagiarism is a very serious offence. That is why it is important to look out for it, especially at the postgraduate level. Lecturers should take the time to check for plagiarism in submitted work with software or other methods and punish students who default. This is because if an author or researcher wants to sue for plagiarism, they won’t just sue the student; they will sue the school too. So, schools have to take plagiarism seriously,” Ichoku said.
He added that lecturers, who plead for students found guilty of submitting plagiarised works, should be banished from the academia.
“It’s not just in academics. Generally, people tend to have a misconception about mercy. They bring up sentiments that do not help anyone. If people feel they can get away with a crime, they will do it again. Such attitudes should be frowned out. If a student commits the crime, he should be punished. It should not be selective.
“Some lecturers don’t realise they are promoting plagiarism with this kind of action. When a lecturer intervenes, they are more or less condoning the act and such should not be allowed in academics.”