Electronic plagiarism by university students is spreading through academic institutions around the country and threatening to undervalue degrees, warns a computer researcher from South Bank University.
According to Dr Fintan Culwin of the university's School of Computing, anecdotal evidence suggests that plagiarism is fast becoming prevalent across all subjects and in all learning institutions, both here and abroad.
"While there are no official statistics, plagiarism by students has been widespread for some time, and has increased considerably with the rise of the internet and freetext," comments Culwin.
Information can easily be downloaded off the web and then transferred or copied into other documents. With tomes of data available on the internet, and thousands of students to police, universities are seldom able to distinguish plagiarised material from original work, he explains.
In an effort to address this problem and to preserve the quality of its degrees, Culwin says South Bank University, like other institutions in the country, is working to develop a detection system that operates across all fields to identify and penalise cheats. He adds that its computing school already uses Moss - Measure of Software Similarity - to identify stolen or copied program software.