UOW student cheat stripped of degree

POLL: The University of Wollongong has stripped one student of their degree and failed five others after they were caught buying essays online in a statewide plagiarism scandal.

Following an investigation by Fairfax Media, UOW traced 26 requests to the online essay-writing company MyMaster to eight of its students.

The MyMaster website, written in Chinese, charged students up to $1000 to write university assignments, which were then passed off as the student's own work.

According to a statement from UOW, the university investigated eight students, based on information it received from Fairfax journalists who broke the story on the plagiarism ring.

Seven of those students were referred to the university's Student Conduct Committee.

Six of them were found guilty of breaching the university's Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Policy.

"All six students received a zero fail for the subject(s), a deferred 12-month suspension and a severe reprimand," a UOW spokesman said.

"One of the students had already graduated, and so the University Council subsequently revoked the student's degree.

"The University of Wollongong made it clear from the first reports that if it received the details obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald on the students involved it would investigate the matters raised.

"The University of Wollongong was the first university covered in the initial story to do so."

Other universities affected by the statewide scandal have begun to finalise investigations and in some cases, expel students.

The University of Newcastle confirmed it had expelled two students and suspended a further eight for using the MyMaster service.

A total of 31 students were found to have breached the university's academic misconduct protocol, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andrew Parfitt said.

All of them were international students based at the university's Sydney campus.

Among them, 24 students received a fail grade for courses completed in 2014 - a penalty that was applied 51 times, indicating some students had bought assignments for multiple courses.

Those students were suspended or expelled.

Professor Parfitt said the university was still pursuing a number of former students who had not responded to the cheating allegations.

Those who graduated last year risked having their degrees revoked.

Four months after the cheating scandal was uncovered, the four other worst-affected universities - Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney and University of NSW - have told Fairfax Media their internal investigations are still under way, but a number of students had been identified.

All universities, except UNSW, listed expulsion as the maximum possible penalty for students found to have breached academic protocol in their dealings with MyMaster.

At UNSW, the maximum penalty is 18 months' suspension from the university.

All universities contacted by Fairfax Media said no penalties would be imposed until all appeal processes had been exhausted.

Macquarie University - the worst-affected university with students logging 128 requests for work in 2014 - confirmed 43 "current and former students" had been asked to attend disciplinary committee hearings to explain how their names were among the files held on the MyMaster website.

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