Starting this year, Chinese education authorities will institute random checks on students’ undergraduate theses to crack down on plagiarism, ghostwriting, and other forms of academic misconduct.
The Ministry of Education released a sampling method on its website Thursday, and said the measures came into force on Jan. 1. According to the ministry, provincial education departments should double-check at least 2% of a university’s theses, and graduates with final essays containing irregularities can have their degrees revoked.
Each thesis will be reviewed by three experts, who will also check the essays for quality. If two reviewers say the paper is substandard, it will be identified as problematic. Such results will be made public, and universities with a high percentage of problematic theses will be held accountable, the ministry said.
Instances of students committing plagiarism or other types of fraud for their theses frequently make headlines, especially when such cases are discovered years later, after the offenders have landed high-profile jobs. Ghostwriting services advertised online start at primary school homework.
Li Mingliang, a professor at the School of International Business at Tianjin Foreign Studies University, often finds students’ writing skills lacking. In the process of guiding undergraduate thesis writing, he often discovers typos, incoherent sentences, and bad logic, he told state-owned newspaper Guangming Daily.
“In addition, there are also graduates who subjectively compile survey data and fabricate references,” Li said. “These hidden problems are difficult to clearly relegate to the category of academic misconduct, which creates opportunities for fraudulent essay writing.”
The ministry’s new measures would also force universities to reflect on their teaching methods and promote reform and innovation in education, Li said.
Last September, Chinese authorities released a guideline stipulating that academic fraud would be recorded in an individual’s social credit history.
Zhao Sijian, a senior majoring in material science and engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said there’s a strong need for a warning system to prevent people from being too opportunistic.
“After all, most people spend a lot of time and effort on their graduate thesis or project,” he told Sixth Tone. “It’s important to value everyone’s work. Otherwise, it’s unfair to those who work hard.”
Additional reporting: Zhang Shiyu; editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.
(Header image: EyeEm/People Visual)