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I am an international student in an European country. During midterms and finals, I realized that more than half of the students are overtly cheating. I do not mean just looking other student's paper, but rather very extreme cases like sending the questions to other people to solve, googling, going to the bathroom to check the formulas, etc. Most of the lecturers do not take any measures, all they do is warn them and let it continue. (Some of them even let student go to toilet twice.)

I have talked with students from other sections and courses and their observations were the same. Also, I take two classes in which I am the only international student in class, and the local students do not even dare to cheat. They just do their tasks, be in class on time, etc. I am not an excellent student but really try my best. So at some time in my career, cheaters will get better exchanges or intern programmes than me because they are more cunning than me. There are people who spend their days and nights in the library and that would be even more depressing for them.

I came from a third-world country where, even if you go to a low-quality university and are busted while cheating, you have no chance to continue your education: not only that, you lose the chance to work in the public sector. (Of course there can be exceptions.) It is counted as a serious crime that never leaves your future life.

So what are my options? What can I do about it? Should I write a letter or something to the dean or someone else? I just want to know about the college's academic conduct code (I couldn't find it on their website). I feel like I've been taken for a fool and nearly lost my motivation to study.

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    what country is this? – Herman Toothrot Jan 25 at 23:00
  • Why do you think they are not turning a blind eye? – Rui F Ribeiro Jan 26 at 7:49
  • Answers in comments and discussions about attitudes to cheating moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment. – Wrzlprmft Jan 27 at 17:28
  • I am teaching, and this is a big problem here too, sad but true. Being an international from a 3rd world country myself, I am very sorry witnessing this issue... wrong mentality! I have a feeling some university authorities fear of being labeled Xenophob, otherwise why they punish locals while only warn the internationals – MimSaad May 19 at 19:22
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As a student there is little you can do other than inform the instructor and maybe the administration that this is rampant. You don't need to mention names, just the fact that you observe a lot of cheating.

The one thing you want to be assured of, however, is that your own position isn't being affected. If grading is competitive in any way this is a serious problem. But otherwise, if you earn the grades you actually get the rest of it is less your concern.

If you were an instructor I'd have different advice as I've seen this myself. I once had a group of students who really wanted to help their friends and it got out of hand. People didn't understand that it wasn't right to help weaker students get good grades if it meant the weaker students weren't really learning anything and would suffer later. We never really had a solution other than to try to convince people that is was counterproductive. Of course, it helps if the course is run in such a way that cheating has little effect, say by minimizing exams. But that is a question for faculty and administration to deal with.

Just make sure that the system treats you fairly and complain if it doesn't.

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    "If grading is competitive in any way this is a serious problem. But otherwise, if you earn the grades you actually get the rest of it is less your concern." If I'm understanding your claim correctly (that cheating only affects the cheaters, unless there is a curve), I think this is incorrect -- if employers become aware that high grades awarded at this school may have little value (either because they become aware that there are many cheaters, or if they discover that the "A" students being hired are not competent), then high grades will lose their market value, even if truly deserved. – Lorenzo Najt Jan 25 at 21:39
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    IME, exam are usually seen as the primary anti-cheating measure, so I'm confused by the "a way that cheating has little effect, say by minimizing exams" line. – Daniel R. Collins Jan 26 at 0:09
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    @Daniel R. Collins: One perspective is that exams that are worth a large percentage of the grade put a lot of pressure on students, who perceive that they would rather cheat than risk doing poorly. – user74089 Jan 26 at 0:14
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    I agree with Dan. Think an in class exam is more of an anticheating situation than take home projects or the like. – guest Jan 26 at 2:44
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    @Buffy: The point of unclarity is not effective teaching, the point is anti-cheating, which is unclear in your post. But you seem resistant to clarify that, so whatever. – Daniel R. Collins Jan 27 at 1:07
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Your question is "what are your options". I presume that you came to that university to study and obtain some knowledge rather than fixing the world. Yes, there are lots of universities that turn a blind eye on cheating and a great number of teachers who don't care. Is it the only unfair thing in the world you can think of?

Thus, I think you should ask yourself whether the educational program at your institution is decent, and if yes, just do you best to study, i.e., to pursue your original goal. One thing that is hard but necessary to realize is that everyone is running on his/her own lane here. You aren't competing for the gold medal. You are working towards building a solid basis for your future, and university exams and assignments are just benchmarks that help you to measure your own performance.

So, why should you care if someone breaks the measuring device and gets an incorrect benchmark for themselves? It's worse for them. If one gets "A" in a Java class by cheating, he/she won't know their real level of Java knowledge, that's it. High grades won't make you a good specialist (and if a certain company hires people just by looking at their university grades, you won't really want to work there).

BTW, this is one of the reasons why some of my colleagues ignore cheating completely. They just shrug shoulders and say that it's not of their concern. Got an "A" by cheating and feel clever? So what? It's your life, my job is to give you knowledge and a measuring device, do whatever you want now.

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    The point is that a culture of cheating devalues the grade in the employment market. Caplan's 'the case against education' outlines the evidence for this signalling theory, and more. – Lorenzo Najt Jan 26 at 2:40
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    @Lorenzo, this is true. Though from the employer's perspective it would be foolish to presume that grades are universally fair (especially in today's global world where it's likely that you never ever heard of a candidate's university before). I really understand the wish of employers to be able to judge applicants by their grades, but it's not going to work, let's face it. – rg_software Jan 26 at 2:48
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    People use it because there aren't many better alternatives. There are lots of rational reasons to use grades (at least as a first approximation) -- for example, they demonstrate that a given student has the desire to conform to certain standards imposed by authorities. This is an attractive feature to employers. – Lorenzo Najt Jan 26 at 2:58
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    @Lorenzo, The alternative is of course test assigment (at a company) / extensive interviews / prior internship or "test period", etc. I'd say most companies do that. Well, I fully understand your argument, and I'd say in a perfect world it should be like that. But at the end of the day here is your company, and here is your applicant. If you are going to employ him/her, it's ultimately your job to find out whether the applicant is good enough. Blaming universities for poor scoring scheme won't help. I'd also say that my goals as an educator and as an examiner often contradict each other. – rg_software Jan 26 at 3:02
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    Tests don't fully capture everything that university grades do. Crucially, while they might measure the capacity of a student to study for one exam, they do not measure the capacity of the student to study hard for exams years after years. This later talent is relevant to employers, who might prefer students who have demonstrated that long term conformity and conscientiousness. (This is how Caplan explains why the last year of college tends to give students a significant raise in pay, even though arguably most students do not learn much more in that last year.) – Lorenzo Najt Jan 26 at 3:20
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(1) Inform the teachers and department or administration abut the general problem and then (2) forget about it.

Rationale: if you never do anything it will bug you (1). If you expect satisfaction or pursue it or the like, it will distract you from your own studies (2).

So report it once. And then move on and just be Zen about it. There is some chance your actions help, even later in time. But don't expect it.

P.s. I am proud of you for not cheating.

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I've learned that in some cultures cheating is apparently not regarded as such. And it can be very difficult to wean these students off of, let us say, a collectivist mentality when it comes to working on homework or even taking tests. It's a very tough situation to deal with as an instructor.

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    I disagree. I wouldn't react to your statement, but this is a very common viewpoint that is widely circulated. In my course, I list in the first paragraph of the course description what exactly constitutes cheating and how I will punish students for doing that. Believe me, after the first round of punishments all cultural differences vanish. You just have to set the rules explicitly and follow them strictly. – rg_software Jan 26 at 0:14
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    ..until your institution comes and asks why the students that are paying full fee are at risk of dropping out. And asks in a way that makes it clear that it is your problem... afterall they are paying your salary... – GreenAsJade Jan 26 at 23:09
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    @GreenAsJade, As a tenured faculty member I try to adhere to my ways of grading without much fear, but of course these things happen. Dropouts of my course typically can find an easier way to get credits, but well, I can't fix the whole system all by myself. – rg_software Jan 27 at 12:14

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