Chapter 8. Academic dishonesty - cheating and plagiarism in Ukrainian higher education

This chapter examines academic dishonesty in higher education, an integrity violation in which the learner misrepresents - through cheating, plagiarism or the purchase of work performed by others - the work they have completed or the knowledge and skills they have acquired. Acts of academic dishonesty in Ukraine are facilitated by gaps in law and regulation that permit its continuation, by the absence of widely shared ethical norms concerning academic dishonesty, and by the limited capacity of higher education institutions to assess and detect its presence.

The chapter recommends making fraud detection a regular part of assessing a wide and representative range of academic work within academic programmes, and assisting higher education institutions in developing their capacity to detect dishonesty. Additionally, the scope of regulations against academic dishonesty should be broadened to include a wider selection of forms of academic dishonesty, for example cheating, and should underline that compliance is the responsibility of teachers and students alike.


Regulatory and policy background

Legislative safeguards against academic dishonesty

The adoption of a new Law on Higher Education in 2014 brought significant improvements in the regulatory framework regarding prevention of academic dishonesty. Several articles of the law refer specifically to this issue (see the extracts listed in Box 8.1). Article 32 stipulates that “higher education institutions shall be obliged to take actions, including those that involve the introduction of relevant advanced technology solutions, to prevent and disclose academic plagiarism in research and the academic work of pedagogical, research, academic and other staff as well as higher education learners and bring them to disciplinary liability”.

The law also suggests measures to that end: an obligation to publish PhD theses on line; the use of antiplagiarism software by HEIs; the possibility for the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) to revoke degrees and diplomas if they are found to have been plagiarised; and the possibility to remove higher education institution (HEI) staff from the academic councils of HEIs if caught in plagiarism. Higher education institutions have also been invited to develop adequate antiplagiarism regulation documents as part of their regulations and charter.

Box 8.1. Extracts from the 2014 Law on Higher Education referring to plagiarism

Article 6 on attestation of higher education learners. Point 5: ‘Discovery of academic plagiarism in a dissertation (research report) submitted for defence shall lead to non-award of the research degree sought. Discovery of academic plagiarism in a defended dissertation (research report) shall constitute grounds for cancelling the decision of the specialised academic council on research degree and correspondent diploma award’.

Article 16 on system of quality assurance stipulates an obligation to ensure that ‘an effective system is in place to prevent and disclose academic plagiarism in research and scientific works produced by the faculty and learners of higher education institutions’.

Article 32 on principles of operations, main rights and responsibilities of a higher education institution reads: ‘Higher education institutions shall be obliged to take actions, including those that involve the introduction of relevant advanced technology solutions, to prevent and disclose academic plagiarism in research and the academic work of pedagogical, research, academic and other staff as well as higher education learners and bring them to disciplinary liability as stipulated by the correspondent regulation and charter of a higher education institution’.

Article 69 on Intellectual property rights and their protection. Point 6: ‘Higher education institutions shall take actions to prevent academic plagiarism, i.e. publication (in part or in full) of research outputs achieved by other individuals as results of own research and/or reproduction of published texts produced by other authors without appropriate reference’.

Source: Law of Ukraine on Higher Education of 1 July, 2014.

During its visits to HEIs in Lviv and Kyiv, the review team was given an overview of actions recommended by the MoES. These included the introduction of computerised tests for entry into bachelor’s programmes and also into master’s programmes on a pilot basis; the use of antiplagiarism software by HEIs; the publication of PhD theses before their defence through the HEI web platform; and checking for the absence of plagiarism in PhD theses by the MoES examinations board after their defence.

At the time of writing this integrity report, plagiarism was the only form of academic dishonesty specifically referred to in legislation. Other forms of dishonesty, such as cheating, were covered only indirectly in statements about the professional duty of academic staff to adhere to ethical standards, which HEIs must define for themselves. Cheating of students is not referred to in the legislation. The Criminal Code of Ukraine criminalises fraud (e.g. cheating is a form of fraud), but its provisions are limited to cases of fraud committed on a large scale, repeatedly and/or with the purpose of taking possession of property.

Institutional safeguards against academic dishonesty

The detection and prevention of academic dishonesty (plagiarism) is the responsibility of several institutions: the Attestation Board of the MoES, the National Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (NAQA), and the Academic Councils of HEIs. There is also a possibility for involvement by the Ministry of Justice in case of infringement of intellectual property rights.

Through its Attestation Board, the MoES is responsible for confirming the decisions of Academic Councils about awarding of academic degrees. After confirmation, the Academic Councils must award the degree within two weeks and submit the award decisions to the MoES Attestation Board for final approval. The Attestation Board is also responsible for complaints and appeals.

The Academic Councils are collegial governing bodies with a five-year mandate and their tasks include evaluation of academic and research performance, and the award of academic titles upon approval/decision by the Attestation Board of the MoES. In case of irregularities, including those concerning plagiarism, the MoES can require the Academic Councils to reassess decisions about degrees that were already awarded or revoke the degree. The MoES also has the right to dissolve an Academic Council in case the latter has awarded a degree based on a plagiarised dissertation. It can suspend Academic Council members for a period of two years and revoke for a period of one year the accreditation of the higher education institution to grant degrees in the faculty and specialty affected by plagiarism.

Finally, it is envisaged that the NAQA will define and monitor criteria of higher education quality and research accomplishments, as well as of the systems of internal quality control at HEIs, and that it will have an Ethics Committee to deal with issues of academic dishonesty. The Agency will also be responsible for the revocation of academic degrees, including in cases of plagiarism.

A. Description of integrity risk and violation

Academic integrity is the foundation of academic achievement (Milovanovitch et al., 2015). Academic dishonesty erodes this foundation by diminishing trust in the value of higher education and its outcomes.

Academic dishonesty comprises a wide range of fraudulent means to obtain a good mark on academic work. In Ukraine, the most common risk of academic dishonesty comes in the form of plagiarism, including the use of commercially sold papers and theses, and cheating. Among Ukrainian students surveyed in 2014, 61% stated that students in their departments take their exams independently, that is, by relying on their knowledge only. The remaining respondents admitted that “alternative” ways are being used, occasionally or regularly. In the same respondent group, 55% claimed that students in their departments also prepare their written assignments (course works, diploma theses, term papers) independently, by authoring the content themselves. For 37%, this is the case only occasionally, and for 8% it is never the case (Table 8.1).

Academic staff and students with whom the review team met during site visits described routine cheating during the HEI studies as “very common”, confirming these survey findings.

Table 8.1. Prevalence of academic dishonesty in exam situations (cheating) and in written assignments (plagiarism)

Survey questions

Student responses (n = 1928)

Independently (%)

Sometimes independently, sometimes not (%)

Not independently (%)

How does the majority of students in your department usually take their exams?




How do students in your department complete their written assignments?




Note: The figures show an average share from all HEI departments that participated in the survey: medicine, economic studies, law, technical sciences, pedagogy, transport, natural sciences, agriculture, social sciences, humanities and construction.

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

Risk and patterns of cheating

The most frequent form of cheating is the preparation of cheat sheets, named by 67% of the teachers and an equal share of students in the already quoted survey (IED, 2015). Access to the Internet during exam sessions is the second most frequent way of gaining undue advantage. This was pointed out by 50% of the students and 44% of the teachers. Slightly more than a third of respondents in each group noted that other conventional ways, such as copying off from other students, are common as well (Table 8.2).

Table 8.2. Common forms of academic dishonesty according to students and teachers
Question: “If students of your department do not sit their exams independently, what do they mostly do?”

Forms of cheating

Students (n = 1928) (%)

Teachers (n = 347) (%)

Prepare crib notes based on lecture and other materials provided by the teacher



Use Internet access during exams to find the responses



Prepare crib notes using the material found on the web



Copy off from other students



Negotiate a mark with the teacher or administrative staff for service or reward (1)



Use other technical means for obtaining responses in real time ( phones)



Buy ready-made crib notes






Note: Respondents could indicate more than one answer.

1. See Chapter 9 for a discussion on this form of malpractice.

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

Risk of plagiarism and false authorship

Plagiarism generally can be defined as “an act of fraud that involves buying, stealing or borrowing someone’s ideas and passing them off, deliberately or accidentally, as one’s own” (Todorova, 2009). During meetings with education stakeholders, participants reported that plagiarism is not only widespread but that it is an integral part of the academic culture of the Ukrainian academic community. Survey data confirm this. Plagiarism in some form is practised by 93% students, and “on average, no less than 50% of dissertations do not meet minimum standards of academic quality, or are plagiarised, or both” (IED, 2015).

Detailed distinctions may be drawn among different practices and their incidence measured. Analysis from the East-Ukrainian Foundation for Social Research provides a mapping of its various forms, and a survey of its incidence by type.

Figure 8.1. Various forms of plagiarism

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

According to the interviews during the site visits for this review, plagiarising existing academic works from the Internet without indicating proper bibliographical references is the most common form of copying used by students. This is substantiated by the results of a survey on the academic culture of Ukrainian students, which asked educators and students: “if the students of your department do not complete their written assignment independently, how do they complete it most often?”. The most frequently cited method, mentioned by 75% of educators and 60% of students, was the submission of academic papers printed off the Internet, while 39% of students and 41% of educators also mentioned that students complete their assignments by appropriating the work of fellow students or graduates (see Figure 8.2).

Attempts have recently been made to address the issue of plagiarism in master’s and PhD theses. Some HEI departments mentioned to the review team that they systematically send master’s theses to their administrations to have them checked for plagiarism using specific software. Moreover, all PhD theses are now sent to the Ministry of Education and Sciences (MoES) examinations board for verification after their defence. If plagiarism is detected, the diploma is not awarded; otherwise, “after six or ten months, the thesis gets approved by the board and then you can pick up your diploma” (student interview).

Figure 8.2. Various sources of copying

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

However, antiplagiarism software products are not capable of detecting plagiarism of papers written in foreign languages. They also cannot be used to tackle the issue of academic staff resorting to plagiarism in their own academic work and research articles, nor do they prevent other forms of fraud in paper authorship, such as research supervisors claiming co-authorship of papers written by their students.

A form of plagiarism that appears to be widely practiced in Ukraine is false authorship: the purchase of essays, term papers, and even theses, from private companies, academic staff or other students. During the interviews conducted by the review team, one student from Lviv National University reported that:

. . .There are private agencies selling theses, diplomas and course papers for students. Some students also do it for others. It is a very widespread practice and is not easily detectable. These agencies have staff that draft research theses and course papers. One can access them via their advertisements on electronic media, order the thesis and get it in a couple of days, or one or two weeks if it is a bigger commission.

A survey conducted by the East-Ukrainian Foundation for Social Research in 2015 showed that this phenomenon is not as widespread as other forms of plagiarism. Still, according to its results, 34% of students and 24% of educators listed the buying of finalised papers from companies who specialised in this market among the methods used by students who do not complete their written assignments independently (IED, 2015). The purchase of the works of other students seems to be a less extensive practice (see Figure 8.3). This is in line with the results of another survey conducted by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, according to which 22% of students said they had bought reports, term papers or graduation theses; this figure was 21.4% in 2011 (Sydorchuk, 2015).

The same survey shows that there can be wide variations from one subject to another. For example, 59% of law students indicated that they bought papers from specialised companies, versus 36% in economics and 11% in medicine. The cost of such practices also seems to vary greatly according to the type of paper in question.

Figure 8.3. Buying finished papers from companies or other students

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

During a focus group discussion held in June 2015 as part of the integrity review, some of the 25 participating master’s students admitted having already bought papers. The average price in social sciences was between UAH 300 and UAH 400; while technical papers could cost between UAH 500 and UAH 700. Five out of 25 students had purchased graduation theses, with a price starting at UAH 3 000. Technical theses were said to be more expensive because of their level of complexity, as they involve calculations and graphs.

B. Factors that create opportunities for the violation

Several shortcomings in the system can help explain the development of academic dishonesty on a wide scale. Five of them are described in more detail below: limits to existing legislation; absence of clear ethical norms; vulnerable assessment procedures; unequal detection capacity; and impunity for acts of academic dishonesty. Many of these practices and associated attitudes first develop in primary and secondary schooling, and their successful prevention requires equally comprehensive solutions.

Limitations in legislation, enforcement and compliance capacity of higher education institutions

In Ukraine, plagiarism is the only form of academic dishonesty that is regulated. However, the issue of academic dishonesty is much broader since it also includes problems of copying, cheating, and the purchase of term papers and theses. These are neither defined nor considered, not even in the form of a recommendation for tertiary institutions to include in their internal regulations and/or codes of professional behaviour.

Where laws do exist, they may not be enforced. False authorship through the purchase of essays, term papers and theses acquired from private specialised companies is not a law enforcement priority. In 2015, Deputy Minister Andriy Hevko noted the reluctance of public authorities “to deal with businesses that contribute to the spread of plagiarism by writing reports, theses and dissertations for fee on demand” (UCMC, 2015). He pointed out that, in 2014, the MoES had given all the contact information of these companies to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Security Service, asking them to put an end to their activities, but “no one wanted to work on the matter. The police do not want to deal with these cases” (UCMC, 2015). A possible explanation for this reluctance is the difficulty to establish the guilt of such companies. Strictly speaking, they are not responsible for the way their “products” are being used by those who buy them. Besides, plagiarism is defined as an administrative and not a criminal offence. Thus, the primary responsibility for the enforcement of anti-plagiarism regulations is with the education sector itself.

Regulations are explicit about the consequences of plagiarism for those holding the bogus credentials and the bodies involved in awarding them, but they do not clarify which of the three entities concerned – the Academic Councils, the Attestation Board of the MoES and the future National Agency – has the burden of proof in case of suspicion that a dissertation has been plagiarised, and what is the formal procedure for determining whether this is the case. The handling of a recent case with a high profile PhD holder, whose dissertation was allegedly plagiarised, reveals the difficulty of arriving at unbiased decisions in the current set-up. After initially determining that the text was indeed plagiarised, the Attestation Board of the MoES had to drop the case because an evaluation carried out on behalf of the Academic Council that was accused of tolerating plagiarism established that there were no irregularities (Zerkalo Nedeli, 2016).

Opportunity for academic dishonesty arises also from the limited capacity of higher education institutions to implement antiplagiarism regulations. Several HEIs, such as Kyiv-Mohyla Academy National University, Kyiv Polytechnic University, and the Kharkiv National University have developed such antiplagiarism regulations and are using anti-plagiarism software. This was not the case for all the HEIs visited by the review team, due to limited financial resources and IT capabilities. The HEIs that reported using plagiarism detectors had IT departments that bore responsibility for acquisition and maintenance of software. According to interviews during one campus visit, the purchase of antiplagiarism software is just the first step to combatting plagiarism. Its effective use also requires the purchase modules for Ukrainian language, training staff to work with the application and investing in integrating the software into the routine of evaluating written assignments.

Absence of clear ethical norms

Few HEIs have adopted a charter of ethics, code of conduct or ethical guidelines that would help address the issue of academic dishonesty in a comprehensive way. The adoption of antiplagiarism software is important but not enough to promote the development of a culture of honesty among the academic community. In the absence of clear ethical norms, and of adequate training based on these norms, the adoption of good practice relies very much on the good will and commitment of individual teachers. Interlocutors during the site visits for this review noted that some supervisors provide information to students about plagiarism as from the second year of a bachelor’s degree. However, this is not a current practice in all HEIs, although it should be the responsibility of every teacher. The recently established NAQA could play a key role in ensuring that the necessary standards are in place in every higher education institution; but since it is not yet operational, it is not of help at this stage.

Assessment procedures that are vulnerable to dishonesty

The review team discussed assessment methods used by lecturers with academic staff at major universities and pedagogical institutes, and with master degree students. In these meetings academics and students noted that assessment methods used by lecturers created opportunities for students to engage in academic dishonesty. First, professors have limited time to prepare and conduct assessments properly, due to heavy workload (see also Chapter 9 for a discussion on lecturers’ workload). Second, assessments are devised and marks are awarded by professors individually. Professors are under no obligation to have their assignments and marking schemes either checked or validated by senior professors within the HEI or by external moderators. Third, professors receive no guidance or training regarding assessment methods. In addition, assessment practices concentrate on testing the reproduction of theoretical knowledge rather than problem-solving or other skills and competencies which require the application of theoretical knowledge, making cheating easier and more difficult to detect. Finally, exams are sometimes poorly managed: students’ own teachers invigilate, and the strictness of controls varies from one invigilator to another. The problem is particularly acute for large-scale exams determining the admission to master’s programmes – even though some HEIs said that they have introduced security measures, such as the mobilisation of invigilators from different faculties.

Unequal detection capacity

Measures have been introduced in recent years to help limit and detect academic dishonesty. However, the enforcement of these measures appears to be quite uneven among Ukrainian higher education institutions. In some HEIs, both bachelor’s and master’s theses are checked on a systematic basis. In other, smaller institutions, only master’s theses are checked on a systematic basis. In yet other HEIs, antiplagiarism software is regarded as quite expensive, and does not appear to be in use so far. Differences in plagiarism detection appear within HEIs, as well as between them. Students from one of the Pedagogical Universities visited by the review team said that anti-plagiarism software is used only “by modern teachers; old teachers don’t use it. They consider that it is enough to read the paper. Only 30% of teachers use the software. They need to be computer literate”.

To standardise the use of antiplagiarism software among higher education institutions, a consortium of HEIs would need to be set up to reduce development and implementation costs. A delegation from a Polish private company that commercialises an antiplagiarism software met the Minister of Education and Science in September 2015, and rectors and vice-rectors of universities in Kyiv and Lviv (the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, the Ukrainian Catholic University, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv and the Lviv Polytechnic National University), providing evidence that large-scale adoption may occur.

This, however, will not solve issues related to the limitations of anti-plagiarism software. Some students mentioned, for instance, that existing software cannot detect plagiarism of texts translated from a foreign language into Ukrainian. As a result, translated papers or articles go unnoticed. More broadly, international experience shows that the use of antiplagiarism software has limited impact if it is not combined with other measures, including raising the awareness of academic staff and of students on the issue of plagiarism, training them on how adequately to reference bibliographical sources in their writings, and supporting the advisory role of supervisors.

Providing access to the electronic archives of PhD theses also constitutes a move forward in the detection of plagiarism. According to the 2014 Law on Higher Education:

Dissertations of persons seeking doctor of philosophy degrees and dissertations (or research reports in the event of defending research achievements published in the form of a monograph or body of articles published in national and/or international reviewed specialised journals) of persons seeking doctorates of sciences, and also opponents’ reviews shall be made publicly available on the official websites of the corresponding higher education institutions (research institutions) as defined by the law (Article 6.5).

All the academic staff with whom the integrity review team met confirmed that HEIs have now to publish PhD theses on their websites, which, if fully implemented, allows the academic community and other stakeholders to have access to and check their content. However, a recent ranking of HEI transparency in Ukraine indicates that a sizeable share of Ukrainian HEIs – one-fifth - still does not comply with this requirement (CEDOS, 2016). When operational, the NAQA should be able to verify how well the requirement is implemented in practice. The next step could consist of providing public access to the central database maintained by the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific, Technical and Economic Information (UkrSTE), which includes 130 000 theses defended since 1991, most of which are in electronic form (UCMC, 2015).

Sense of impunity for acts of academic dishonesty

Sanctions for acts of academic dishonesty appear to be uneven across HEIs, and also across faculties and academic departments. Students interviewed by the integrity review team emphasised that “respect for academic integrity is the responsibility of each teacher. Some check, others don’t. Sanctions depend on teachers. Some give minus marks to students that have cheated or plagiarised their work”. For students who are caught, consequences may be limited or non-existent.

As regards dissertations, several HEIs have introduced more systematic checks for plagiarism of master’s theses. Supervisors send the document to the administrative department to be verified, but if the document is found to be plagiarised students are only asked to improve it – they are not sanctioned. Students actually do get sanctioned by the MoES examinations board, if their PhD thesis is found to be plagiarised after the defence. In this case, their PhD diploma is cancelled (Article 6.5 of the 2014 Law on Higher Education). The MoES examinations board meets every two months. Interviewees mentioned that two PhDs were cancelled during the last session of the examinations board.

In sum, sanctions against academic dishonesty seem to be limited principally to cases of plagiarism of PhD theses, and applied by the central ministry rather than by the HEIs themselves, who continue to play a limited role in applying sanctions against students found cheating or plagiarising. This was emphasised by the minister of education himself in his speech on December 2014: “We have organised quality checks of the theses and dissertations in question and the facts have been confirmed. Once the NAQA is operational, its mission will be the monitoring of plagiarism, but today it is the task of the ministry to curb the temptation to resort to plagiarism’” (Science Consultation Center, 2014).

C. Factors that create incentives for the violation

A weakly developed culture of academic honesty

Most people interviewed by the integrity review team referred to a long tradition of some forms of cheating. Discussions with lecturers and students also revealed the high degree of tolerance of the academic community towards plagiarism. One lecturer explained that “if students are able to find relevant information on the Internet, that’s already an achievement. He or she should get some points”; and that “if students cheat for their homework, help each other, or buy the answers, one should understand that they want a higher mark”.

A 2014-15 study on the academic culture of the Ukrainian academic community also emphasised that certain forms of academic dishonesty, in particular copying and plagiarism, are entrenched to an extent where they have become a “student tradition” (IED, 2015). Todorova proposed that “the Ukrainian understanding of plagiarism proves to be much narrower than that of the West”, and that such a situation has to do with a “trust in published sources rooted in Soviet times”, a low ability to evaluate the quality of information, and the absence of distinction between data in the public domain and information that is someone’s intellectual property.

Moreover, students seem to be quite indifferent to the misbehaviour of other students, and also reluctant to signal it to professors or HEI authorities. One of the students interviewed by the integrity review team regarding the purchase of master’s theses accordingly said that “students do not report about others. They don’t care about others. That’s personal business. You choose what to do. You want to get a diploma, and that’s it”.

Weak intrinsic motivation among students

Research shows that there is a connection between the motivation of students to study and academic integrity (Heuser and Drake, 2011). Those who manage to enrol in fields of study in which they are genuinely interested are less inclined to academic dishonesty, while those who are only interested in an academic credential are less likely to invest an effort in academic rigour and the advancement of knowledge in their chosen field (Milovanovitch et al., 2015). An assessment report prepared on behalf of the civil society sector in Armenia found that “personal motivation” to study has the strongest negative relationship to cheating behaviours of students, followed by “aim to obtain a mark”, “inaptitude” and lack of “general motivation”. Students who were academically dishonest were predominantly students lacking intrinsic motivation to study (Milovanovitch et al., 2015).

In Ukraine, candidates with poor general knowledge are encouraged to select subjects for the external standardised test where they have a greater chance of getting a good score, even if the subject matter does not interest them. The situation is even trickier for small HEIs that fail to attract the best students. Several interviewees remarked that higher education institutions with a lower-quality intake faced “demand for low-quality education” from those who choose to study there.

In 2015, close to 2 000 students were asked about their reasons to enter higher education, and given an opportunity to select multiple answers from among fourteen options (Table 8.3). Only one of those options described an intrinsic motive to study (“to obtain knowledge and become a good professional”). All others related to extrinsic reasons, such as finding a job, better salary, reputation or status, parental or peer pressure, etc. Somewhat surprisingly, only 62% of the student respondents declared an intrinsic motivation to study by selecting the corresponding option. For 38%, extrinsic motives were the sole reason to enrol in higher education. The share of educators who believed that their students are enrolled because of interest in knowledge was even lower, 43% - the majority believed that their students are driven by extrinsic motivation (IED, 2015).

Table 8.3. Students’ reasons for entering a higher education establishment


Precentage according to students

Percentage according to educators

To obtain knowledge and become a good professional



It is easier to find a good job with a higher education degree



Higher education degree provides an opportunity for a better salary



Higher education gives an opportunity for independent life



Higher education is prestigious



To enjoy student life



Higher education is an opportunity to go abroad



To improve my social status



My parents insisted



To avoid military service



To live in a big city



Many friends went to a HEI



To postpone seeking work



To find a life partner



Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

Curriculum content and overload

Student surveys in Ukraine indicate that the “pressure of needless subjects of the course” (32.4%) and “lack of the time required for studying – I need to earn money” (27.9%) lead to corrupt student practices. Syllabuses appear to be often overloaded, out-of-date and unconnected to the needs of the labour market. In a 2013 survey, students referred to: obsolete courses that do not meet modern requirements; the poor state of classrooms, technical equipment and laboratories; overload of class hours and courses; high student/teacher ratios, etc. (IRF, 2013). Low academic interest combined with curriculum overload and poor preparation for exams leads students (especially those working part time) to engage in fraudulent practices to fulfil course requirements. Moreover memorisation and reproduction of existing knowledge - as opposed to competency-based learning - makes it easier and more tempting for students to cheat on exam questions.

D. Policy options

Closing the opportunities for malpractice

Repeated statements by the highest authorities in the country about the need to fight academic dishonesty, together with the new Law on Higher Education that refers explicitly to academic dishonesty, help create an enabling environment to tackle the issue (see Box 8.2). A comprehensive strategy to promote academic honesty will be required to accomplish the law’s goals and the aspirations of public authorities. The recommendations below aim to support a comprehensive strategy.

Make fraud detection a regular part of assessing academic work

Assessment involves judgement of academic performance against predetermined criteria and the provision of a corresponding mark (SHU, 2016). Identifying potential plagiarism and other forms of cheating should become a regular practice in assessing academic achievement. This is consistent with the recommendation of the European Network on Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), according to which academic fraud should be a focus of internal quality assurance. Regulations now in place require that high-stakes written assignments such as master’s theses and PhD dissertations be subject to antiplagiarism controls. It is important to extend Ukraine’s quality assurance system to include an obligation to assess a broad and representative range of aspects of students’ academic work and achievement; this obligation should cover the issue of cheating as well.

Box 8.2. Extract from a speech by the Minister of Education Serhiy Kvit

A separate important part of the Ministry [of Education] is activity involved in the fight against plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. For the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, each meeting of the certifying board of the Ministry of Education and Science finishes with degree deprivation of some members of the academic community in whose works plagiarism has been found. Now it is important to encourage intolerance of academic dishonesty in the scientific community, while teaching the skills necessary to write rigorous academic works, conduct research and to cite the sources from which these ideas come. This endeavour must not only focus on the punitive aspect of academic integrity, but it must also teach and encourage integrity in our academic institutions.

Source: Kvit, S. (2015), Ukrainian Education: the State of Reform,

Increase capacity for detecting academic dishonesty

The report recommends that the NAQA, in collaboration with civil society organisations active in promoting academic transparency and integrity, develop a toolkit on academic integrity that would include web-based resources, posters, training materials and videos, to be used for awareness campaigns and training courses at the HEI level.

It is difficult to prevent companies that sell written assignments and theses from operating. Forcing them underground can increase the risk of academic dishonesty. The MoES through the NAQA should establish and maintain a database of private companies that sell written assignments and theses. Keeping an up-to-date database on the content they offer instead can make anti-plagiarism software more effective by feeding relevant, paid content in Ukrainian and Russian language that may not be identified by fraud detection software used in Ukraine’s higher education institutions.

Finally, the use of antiplagiarism software is of limited impact if it is not combined with other measures, including raising the awareness of academic staff and of students on the issue of plagiarism, training them on how adequately to reference bibliographical sources in their writings, supporting the advisory role of supervisors. To reduce the incidence of academic dishonesty, this review recommends, in addition, regular exchanges between advisers and students, close monitoring of students’ work, scientific advising, proofreading and checking academic papers. In the same vein, it would be helpful to finalise work on the national repository of academic texts, which the review team was informed is in preparation by the MoES.

Eliminating the incentives for malpractice

Improve regulations on academic dishonesty to include cheating

The scope of regulations against academic dishonesty should be broadened to include a wider selection of forms of academic dishonesty, in particular cheating, and regulations should underline that compliance is the responsibility of teachers and students alike. The adjustment of scope should be undertaken on the level of primary legislation (Law on Higher Education), which currently covers only plagiarism but not cheating. The preparation of supporting regulations must be with the MoES, but monitoring of compliance and guidance on how to comply should be with the NAQA.

Furthermore, the review team recommends that the NAQA define the key stages in the process of identifying and following up on potential plagiarism and other forms of cheating. The stages and principles of this process should be made binding for all accredited higher education institutions. There should be clear definitions of consequences for non-compliance for institutions (such as the withdrawal of accreditation) and individual learners (administrative sanctions, including to dismissal). Box 8.3 provides an example from the “Quality Code” of the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Box 8.3. An example from the UK Quality Code for Higher Education

Identification of cheating is achieved in a range of ways appropriate to the nature of the assessment task.

In the case of plagiarism this may include the use of electronic submission and software that is able to help identify matches between the content of assessed work and existing material, thus assisting in the identification of plagiarism.

Higher education providers implement clear processes through which instances of unacceptable practice can be reported by anyone with relevant knowledge. These processes facilitate the gathering of evidence and provide students, who are believed to have engaged in unacceptable practice, with the opportunity to put their case, test the evidence and offer any explanation or mitigation. The outcomes of such cases are evidence-based and supported by clear reasons.

Penalties for proven cases of unacceptable practice are clear, proportionate and consistently and equitably applied. Students are made aware that in some subjects, certain forms of unacceptable practice can have severe consequences for their career prospects, for example, denial of entry into a particular profession because of the element of dishonesty and/or unethical behaviour attached to certain practices. Effective processes for identifying potential cases and (where appropriate) for applying penalties may also have a deterrent effect, especially if the potential consequences of unacceptable practice are well publicised.

Students must also be given a possibility to appeal against decisions relating to unacceptable academic practice.

Source: QAA (2012), The UK Quality Code for Higher Education,

Require higher education institutions to design, adopt and promote a charter of ethics

Each HEI should be obligated to design and adopt an integrity charter that clearly sets out the norms and standards of behaviour applying to the academic community, and links to the relevant regulations. The charter and its preparation should involve all stakeholders in a participatory way, to promote ownership. The availability of an integrity charter and its compliance with minimum standards of quality and comprehensiveness (to be defined by the NAQA) should be a mandatory requirement for the accreditation and re-accreditation of higher education institutions.


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