Do foreign students cheat more?

Culture clash.
Culture clash.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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Fresh perspectives and big tuition payments aren’t the only things foreign students are bringing to American college campuses, apparently. There’s another: cheating.

The Wall Street Journal used (paywall) the Freedom of Information Act to ask 50 public universities with high foreign enrollment for a breakdown of academic integrity violations committed by international and domestic students. Most of the schools said they didn’t have such specific information, but 14 of them did. Data from these institutions show higher rates of alleged cheating among foreign students compared with their domestic counterparts.

And a lot higher, at that. According to the Journal’s analysis of these schools’ records from the 2014-’15 school year, there were 5.1 reports of cheating for every 100 international students—compared with just one per every 100 domestic students. At some colleges, the rate of cheating was more than eight times higher for the former than the latter. “Students from China were singled out by many faculty members interviewed,” the Journal reported.

What’s going on here? One explanation is that many students from abroad simply aren’t familiar with US standards of academic integrity. For instance, foreign students “don’t always understand what plagiarism is,” University of Arizona associate dean Chrissy Lieberman told the Journal. And in China—a country exporting a growing number of its students to school in the US—the cultural pressure to succeed in academics tends to be greater than any moral disapproval of finding shortcuts to that success. A recent study on why high school students in China cheat found many students had no qualms about hiring others to sit exams for them. They didn’t feel what they were doing was wrong; they simply “thought it was not a serious concern.”