In the comments to the question Methods to track behind cheating on exams using on-line sites? , Federico Poloni states that cheating is considered a felony in Italy (see https://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:legge:1925-04-19;475). This seems interesting to me as I had never heard of this. So I am asking: In which (other) countries is cheating in university exams considered a felony (and thus punishable by law)?

Note that I only asking about the existence of such a law, not if it has any implications in practise.

Also note: I am really asking about "classical university exams" and not about plagiarism when writing a thesis.

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    Note, importantly, that the meaning of felony is determined by local law and varies widely. I doubt that under US law, cheating on university exams could rise to that level. Professional licensing exams might be quite different, of course. Engineering and Medicine have quite strict rules, I'd suppose. – Buffy May 31 '20 at 17:50
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    You might want to define the meaning of 'felony' you're using. Based on the linked law (and US usage) you might mean a crime punishable by imprisonment, but in the text you just say "punishable by law", which would apply also to other crimes. And in other law systems and languages felony has more narrow definitions, reflecting its feudal origins. – Anyon May 31 '20 at 18:00
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    @user111388 Felonies are serious crimes, see e.g. Wikipedia. 'Crime' seems like a simpler and more appropriate word for what you're after. – Anyon May 31 '20 at 18:20
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    fraud is a crime in many countries. – user1271772 Jun 1 '20 at 3:15
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    Are you looking for an exhaustive list? I don;t really see this question being answered as it stands. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jun 1 '20 at 13:57

In the German state North-Rhine-Westphalia cheating in university exams is a contravention (Ordnungswidrigkeit) and can be a crime if the university demanded a declaration in lieu of oath.

In the North-Rine-Westphalian law on universities (Hochschulgesetz) § 63 V says:

(5) Die Hochschulen und die staatlichen Prüfungsämter können von den Prüfungskandidatinnen und Prüfungskandidaten eine Versicherung an Eides Statt verlangen und abnehmen, dass die Prüfungsleistung von ihnen selbständig und ohne unzulässige fremde Hilfe erbracht worden ist. Wer vorsätzlich

  1. gegen eine die Täuschung über Prüfungsleistungen betreffende Regelung einer Hochschulprüfungsordnung oder

  2. gegen eine entsprechende Regelung einer staatlichen oder kirchlichen Prüfungsordnung

verstößt, handelt ordnungswidrig. Die Ordnungswidrigkeit kann mit einer Geldbuße bis zu 50 000 Euro geahndet werden. Die Hochschulen können das Nähere in einer Ordnung regeln. Zuständige Verwaltungsbehörde für die Verfolgung und Ahndung von Ordnungswidrigkeiten nach Satz 2 Nummer 1 ist die Kanzlerin oder der Kanzler sowie nach Satz 2 Nummer 2 das staatliche Prüfungsamt. Im Falle eines mehrfachen oder sonstigen schwerwiegenden Täuschungsversuches kann der Prüfling zudem exmatrikuliert werden.

So it is a contravention finable with up to 50 000 € to intentionally violate the examination regulations on cheating (sentence 2 f.). The details can be ruled by regulations of the universities. I have never heard of someone fined under this rule, but this does not mean it never takes place.

Additionally the univiersities can demand a declaration in lieu of oath that the examined took the exam without forbidden foreign help (sentence 1). This only applies to foreign help, not to "cheat sheets" and similar. Giving a false declaration in lieu of oath is a crime under §§ 156, 161 StGB both done intentionally and negligently. Such declarations are requested regularly for Hausarbeiten (papers written by students at home) but not for exams done in university.

Section 156 False declaration in lieu of oath

Whoever falsely makes a declaration in lieu of an oath before an authority which is competent to administer such declarations or falsely testifies whilst referring to such a declaration incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or a fine.

Section 161 Negligent false oath; negligent false declaration in lieu of oath

(1) Whoever commits one of the offences referred to in sections 154 to 156 by negligence incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine.

(2) No penalty is incurred if the offender corrects the false statement in time. The provisions of section 158 (2) and (3) apply accordingly.

By § 159 (in combination with § 30) StGB it is even a crime to try to abet to a false declaration in lieu of an oath punishable with up to 2 years and 3 months at prison or a fine (§§ 30 I s. 2, 49 I n. 2 StGB).

Section 159 Attempt to abet false testimony

Section 30 (1) and section 31 (1) no. 1 and (2) apply accordingly to an attempt to abet false unsworn testimony (section 153) and a false declaration in lieu of an oath (section 156).

There may be similar rules in other federal states of Germany (the rules on universities are made by the states). I looked only for Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg where a declaration in lieu of an oath can only be demanded for PhD thesis and there is no contravention-rule.


In Italy cheating in a public university can be punished with 3-12 months of imprisonment.

The relevant law is almost one century old, but it is still valid today.

From https://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls?urn:nir:stato:legge:1925-04-19;475 :

LEGGE 19 aprile 1925, n. 475

Art. 1 Chiunque in esami o concorsi, prescritti o richiesti da autorita' o pubbliche Amministrazioni per il conferimento di lauree o di ogni altro grado o titolo scolastico o accademico, per l'abilitazione all'insegnamento od all'esercizio di una professione, per il rilascio di diplomi o patenti, presenta, come propri, dissertazioni, studi, pubblicazioni, progetti tecnici e, in genere, lavori che siano opera di altri, e' punito con la reclusione da tre mesi ad un anno. La pena della reclusione non puo' essere inferiore a sei mesi qualora l'intento sia conseguito.

My attempt at a translation (excuse the convoluted 1925 Italian syntax).

Law no. 475, April 19 1925.

Article 1: whoever presents as his/her own a study, dissertation, publication, technical project, or, generically, a work that is made by someone else, in an exam or selection, prescribed or requested by authorities or by the public administration to confer degrees or any other sort of academic or school qualifications, or for habilitation to the practice of a profession or to teaching, is to be punished with imprisonment from 3 months up to one year. This penalty cannot be lower than six months when the attempt is successful.

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    Many thanks, that is very interesting. Are there recent cases where that law has been enforced? – user117109 May 31 '20 at 18:05
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    @Titus I haven't heard of any recent cases in the news, but a Google search returned this sentence from 2013 by the highest Italian court (Cassazione), in which a man was condemned for plagiarizing "with minimal changes" his thesis. His degree in medicine was revoked as well. The court commented that this practice was "particularly popular". – Federico Poloni May 31 '20 at 18:12
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    And the US has gone overboard on long sentences for what should be very minor infractions. Smoke dope and go to jail for life. (Less common now, thankfully) – Buffy May 31 '20 at 18:53
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    It wouldn't be Italian without comical nonsense. If the attempt is successful? LOL. If the attempt is successful, it means you are not busted. – Kaz Jun 1 '20 at 8:05
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    @Kaz I guess that depends on your definition of "success" (and there may be some subtlety lost in translation). I could imagine that the Italian law sees it as a more severe case if you plagiarize and then carry your degree for years vs. if you are busted before the degree is conferred. – xLeitix Jun 1 '20 at 8:33

In Canada there is a section of the Criminal Code (equivalent to US Federal law; but there are no Provincial "criminal" laws) called "Personation at examination" that deals exactly with this:

404 Every one who falsely, with intent to gain advantage for himself or some other person, personates a candidate at a competitive or qualifying examination held under the authority of law or in connection with a university, college or school or who knowingly avails himself of the results of such personation is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

And yes, it's been used: There was a case in 2014 in which a forged identity document was allegedly used to allow a PhD-level student to write an undergrad's exam for hire. This resulted in charges reported as "uttering forged documents" as well as the one above. Note that as the law is worded, both the actor and the willing subject of the "personation" can be charged under the same section.

("Personation" seems to be an archaic form used in law; it's not a widespread Canadianism for "impersonation".)

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    I wonder why some people upvoted the France answer (which came later) and not this one also. – user111388 Jun 1 '20 at 14:00
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    @user111388 the France answer was edited (bumping it to the top spot with the default "most active" sort option) and this was put on Hot Network Posts. People click on that, read the first answers (whether truly "first" or not), vote, and leave. Completely inflates the votes but no good solution to it. – LinkBerest Jun 1 '20 at 18:56
  • @LinkBerest: Oh, I did not know that default is "Most active". I have always "Votes". – user111388 Jun 1 '20 at 19:39

In France, see the law of December 23, 1901 related to fraud at exams.

You risk 3 years of jail by cheating at exams. Even at the Baccalauréat (end of high school at age of about 18), or competitive exams for entrance at any Grande École (some of which, including Écoles normales supérieures or École Polytechnique, giving you a civil servant status and pay when studying there; I was very happy to be graduated from ENS Cachan and paid there, with the contractual obligation to serve the State for ten years or else reimburse part of my salary as student & civil servant).

I am not a lawyer, so I don't know how often is that law applicable in practice.

But you certainly forbid yourself from any State related employment (so hospitals, army, police, research, education, law, defense or space industry, or even Airbus ....) if you are condemned for cheating. AFAIK, cheating at Baccalauréat (and been caught) forbids you to go to University for several years, and could be written on your criminal record ("casier judiciaire").

I made nearly all my career at CEA and I would be forbidden to be hired (in 1985) if I ever cheated at exams.

I taught and gave exams at University, and cheating is a very serious thing there. Anyone teaching at university and permitting (on purpose) fraud would have a lot of trouble (similar to some kind of sexual harassment on students).

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    Here's an official link that is more readable than a law text. Note a distinction between disciplinary sanctions (5 years ban on public exams/university, failure at the exam where you cheated) taken more or less automatically, and criminal sanctions (up to 9000€ fine and three years in prison) which require judicial proceedings and are therefore more rare (I personally know of three fraud cases that got the disciplinary sanctions but were not charged criminally). – UJM Sep 11 '20 at 16:57
  • @UJM: I guess you are French like I am. Could you then read refpersys.org and send me by email to basile@starynkevitch.net your opinion – Basile Starynkevitch Sep 11 '20 at 17:19

In Australia, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019 is currently being considered by parliament.

In a speech to parliament the Minister for Education explained:

This bill is aimed squarely at providers of cheating services, and not at students who might use such services. Students who cheat remain subject to their institutions' own academic integrity policies, processes and sanctions. Students who cheat are not subject to the penalties this bill creates; only those who help them cheat are at risk.

He goes on to explain it only outlaws commercial cheating, and that the universities preferred to take an "educative approach" to unpaid cheating.

He also states:

Promotion of cheating services to students has become widespread in recent years through on-campus advertising, email and social media. Students are being inundated with targeted promotions for cheating services highlighting their ease of access, minimal cost and low risk of detection, while downplaying the ethical dishonesty involved.

While many aspects of these services and their use are already subject to criminal and civil penalties for various offences such as fraud or misrepresentation, these can be complex and difficult to pursue. They also provide little deterrence as there is no specific law that clearly and simply says the provision of cheating assistance is wrong.

So, commercial cheating is already against the law - perhaps at the state level, rather than the federal level. I suspect the question of whether a new federal law is necessary to make this behaviour prosecutable is as much political as legal.

  • Little confused why this answer might have got the tick, but that's the problem with list questions. – Oddthinking Jun 12 '20 at 11:07
  • Why not? All were good the same, so I chose randomly. Not that it would matter much.. – user111388 Jun 12 '20 at 13:35

I found a local newspaper article from 2008 reporting that four people had been convicted of fraud (in the UK) for cheating by personation in university exams. (I won't link to the article, because it names individuals whose convictions may now be spent.)

I also found an article from 21st February 2017 mentioning that the UK government was considering legislating to make the use of essay mills a criminal offence, but it appears that by the time of the House of Lords debate on the Higher Education and Research Bill on 13th March 2017, the government had decided against any such legislation.


Besides explicite laws about cheating, some education organizations also use the concept of affidavits/declarations in lieu of an oath, which have a legally binding state. Especially used in final works like master/diploma works. They are mandatory part of the submission process (for example in Germany).

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    See my answer written while you posted yours. – K-HB Jun 3 '20 at 10:08

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