As a Ph.D. student, I have TA'd many classes, and it seems every semester, we have caught at least one person for directly copying homework answers from a previous year's solutions. In most cases (probably 8/10), the instructor does not want to begin any formal academic integrity hearings, so all that happens is the student gets a 0 on the question with no other punishment.

It doesn't seem fair to me that there is no formal reprimand for cheating other than getting a 0 on the question. When I have asked instructors about this, their reasoning is that creating a formal hearing/meeting is too much work, and they often add that the students (who are overwhelmingly international students) may not understand that directly copying solutions is not acceptable.

The question is, if giving a 0 on a homework question an adequate and fair punishment for cheating? Why don't the instructors want to take any additional steps?

Somewhat related: Professor does not care about cheating, what should TA do?

  • Answers-in-comments (and discussion on those answers) have been moved to chat; additional answers-in-comments will be deleted without warning.
    – cag51
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 5:56
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    What level are you teaching? It seems clear that it's undergrad, but first year? final year? I ask because in early courses, the goal may be to train the students rather than start a process of punishment that can be career-limiting in some cases.
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 9:33
  • I have TA'd several different engineering courses (I'm fifth year), but the primary course this has been a persistent issue is a course for M.Eng students.
    – Taw
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 17:15
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    Many years ago, I was taking a certificate course (from an accredited institution), and the teacher knew that 4 of the students (who worked together) had submitted the same homework, differently formatted. He said the school wouldn't accept his reason for suspecting them (identical times for database tuning, when there should've been some jitter each time you do it) ... which we suspect was because the company paid if they got an A or B in the class ... if they failed, the school would have to get the students to pay individually, so was willing to turn a blind eye to cheating
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 18:22

15 Answers 15


I suspect this is entirely dependent on the instructor and department. At Michigan, where an Honor Code (and no proctoring of exams) is part of the culture, we took it pretty seriously. We used the MOSS (Measure of Software Similarity) system at Stanford to detect possible plagiarism in our students' project submissions in our computer science courses, carefully reviewed each case by hand and if the evidence was there, standard practice followed every time was to report it to the Honor Council and let them sort it out.

It's helpful to remember that when people copy, they copy a lot and the obfuscations they add, like changes to variable names and the order of if/then/else clauses, are generally really lame; they don't fool MOSS and they wouldn't fool you, either. At Michigan, when we reported a case, the evidence was compelling. There was always lots of copying and there were often damning artifacts like the same odd misspellings in the comments. We'd often find hundreds of lines of completely identical code. With two submissions side-by-side, it's easier than you might think to tell if they were copied.

Our largest intro CS courses typically had enrollments around 1000 to 1100 and we usually reported 5% or 6% of the class for possible academic violation. About 90% of the cases we submitted typically resulted in a finding of responsibility by the Honor Council. Usual penalty was a zero on the assignment and a 1/3 letter grade deduction on their final course grade. If they were from a previous semester and beyond the reach of a grade penalty, they got community service. The most frequent reason why someone might be found not responsible was that their partner did it and they didn't know about it.

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    At that scale it becomes necessary to use such a system, as it is much harder to treat people as individual. I assume you made some sort of honors code clear at the start of the program, and maybe in each course.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 18:52
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    @Buffy. You bet. The Honor Code (and lack of proctoring on exams) is part of the Umich culture, on every syllabus and discussed in the first lecture in every course. Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 18:57
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    ...just don't do it with trivial assignments. For < 50 LoC it's not that hard to get coincidentally identical submissions. Especially in assembler. Happened to me as an undergraduate. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 13:43
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    @Buffy At Umich, it was decided by the Honor Council and virtually always the same penalty. But fwiw, the obfuscation was almost always about the same level of general lameness. I suspect that most students who might have been good enough to hide their copying really well were good enough to write it on their own without needing to copy. In my experience, students rarely copy because they're hoping to go from an A- to an A. They copy because they can't do it on their own and they're afraid of failing and killing their career dreams. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 15:21
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    @AzorAhai-him- Yes, it does. For more on the phenomenon, I recommend the documentary, (Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies. It's not free but it's definitely worth paying for. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 20:05

My own experience with this is that places I've worked had very cumbersome and time-consuming processes to deal with cheating "officially" --- meaning that there would be penalties more than just grade reduction.

I followed those processes on a couple of egregious cheating cases, however the students involved retained lawyers to ensure the university complied with its own policies and procedures. The level of effort required meant that my department had a full-time staff member dedicated to ensuring the process was followed to the letter.

Sometimes, formal processes that extend outside the class are just a waste of everyone's time.

  • This conversation, which is mostly unrelated to this answer, has been moved to chat. Please continue the discussion there and read this FAQ before posting another comment. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 12:28
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    Also the cases can take a long time to go through, which I understand is a big deterrent for some profs.
    – bob
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 23:12

In my discipline, cheating is rampant. I would say that the majority of students have some form of unauthorized assistance for their coursework. I wondered why academic integrity wasn't taken very seriously until I realized that academics aren't taken very seriously. The product that universities sell is a diploma, not an education (i.e., human capital). The diploma's value is based on the reputation of the school which almost exclusively comes from research and publications (as well as football team performance and how fancy the buildings are). The quality of instruction and pedagogical factors are largely irrelevant.

This all serves as background for the three main reasons:

  1. Punishing cheaters hurts the reputation of the school, it embarrasses the school and undermines the charade of instruction being important, it's better to pretend cheating doesn't happen.

  2. Punishing cheaters means lost revenue, not just for the cheater that is expelled but also for prospective students that will be scared off from a school that might take $100,000 of their money and then expel them.

  3. Punishing cheaters is difficult to prove and a pain to resolve, administrators have little desire to get involved.

Most people visiting this SE channel are unlikely to agree with my cynicism but this has been my experience which has been almost universally shared by associates in academia.

  • 1
    Human capital is a lot more than education. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 20:25
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    Do you figure this will change on the day a bridge that has just collapsed is found to have been designed by an engineer whom cheated his/her way to a degree? Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 21:44
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    @ZeroTheHero That reminds me of a story. A friend went to college to study civil engineering. On the first day, the (calculus) teacher told an audience of over 100 students that only 2 or 3 of them would ever design bridges. For many, an engineering degree is merely a ticket to, say, management consulting, where they never use anything they learned in their degrees — perhaps a tiny bit of calculus, though very seldom. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 10:54
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    I actaully think this is completely backwards. If your business is to sell diploma's to people that will help them get a job, then it is vitally important that you maintain the percieved value of that diploma. Any suggestion that someone could obtain the diploma via cheating would fatally undermine the value of the product. However, if your aim is to educate each indevidual to the maximum extend possible for that indevidual, rather than to certify them, then the grade on the paper at the end of the course is immaterial. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 12:20
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    @IanSudbery Exactly. Who cares? How many people can obtain a degree in psychology from Harvard? More than the people who are admitted to Harvard, I assume. How many people can obtain a degree in physics from Caltech? When the bottleneck is admission rather than graduation, the diploma itself is less valuable. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 13:14

There could be a variety of reasons, of course, so I'll only speak for myself.

I consider that I'm in the classroom (or was - retired now) to teach students, not just the subject at hand, but how to learn, and, to a lesser extent how to behave properly in an academic setting.

Giving a zero on an assignment, might be a huge deal if it represents a fairly large percentage of the overall course grade. It may well be punishment enough. But if I do that, I'll also require a conversation with the student, pointing out that they are there to learn something, not just accumulate points. I'll get through to some of them, but not all, I assume.

If I get better behavior in the future and a change in attitude, then I see no need for a permanent notation in the student's record. Repeated infractions after warnings is a different matter and should result in more severe penalties, up to expulsion. For that, the professor needs to bring the case to larger authority.

If you remember that teaching is the main job, not grading or policing, then it becomes easier to accept.

I once had a group of students all from the same culture. In their home country they were greatly discriminated against so they learned to support one another, despite any rules. It took a long time to convince the better students that they weren't actually helping the weaker ones by providing answers (without learning). But the weaker students were the ones that needed to do the work the most.

I can't say that it was completely successful, but we (the faculty) made some progress. Punishing them would probably have been counterproductive since the system would now seem to be "against them", just like in their original country.

And, of course, giving the same graded assignments in consecutive (or recent) years is pretty foolish. Some student groups keep files of old questions with answers for just this purpose.

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    If it's a large class with complex assignments you need to autograde, you're pretty much forced to keep the same assignments from one term to the next and rely on MOSS to spot copying because the cost to create a new project, debug the instructions and create all the autograder tests is simply prohibitive. What you don't reuse are exam questions. Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 18:55
  • @NicoleHamilton, yes, as you note in your own answer. My scale was always more personal.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 18:57
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    +1 for " teaching is the main job, not grading or policing". Our job as educators is to educate students, not to judge or rank them. We have assesements to help students focus on the correct things to learn, and to judge for themselves how well they are doing that. Cheating allows them to short circuit that. We should stop cheating for that reason, but I couldn't really care less about other reasons. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 1:11
  • So what I'm hearing is you gave one group of students more lenient treatment when it concerns cheating because of their race/nationality... That can't possibly be justified no matter which way you spin it Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 11:03
  • @Persistence, actually no. I wasn't lenient with them. Somewhat hard on them actually. Being lenient would give them no incentive to change their behavior. I understood what their motivation was, but focused on the behavior.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 12:42

I've led a few workshops at my institution informing other faculty about our school's academic integrity policy and best practices for interfacing with it. It's pretty interesting to hear the wildly different reactions to our advice.

Some of the issues I've heard (intersecting with other answers here) include:

  • Students don't know the policy, so we shouldn't punish them too much. (With common reference to foreign-born students, which comprise about half of our school's population.)

  • Instructor prefers to deal with it "on a personal level", and have a talk with student that's not officially recorded anywhere.

  • Department has a custom policy that differs from institution's official policy, and keeps the issue in-department.

  • The official process is too time-consuming, and simultaneously has a low likelihood of any other penalty being applied by the school. (Notes: At our school it's largely the instructor's responsibility to investigate, interrogate the student, gather evidence, etc. For me, this process seems to average about 3-4 hours of work, not counting the mental burden of just thinking about for a week or more. And that's not counting a disputing student taking it to a committee hearing, possibly with a lawyer.)

  • The process is too punishing (most often heard from liberal arts and social science faculty).

  • The process isn't punishing enough (most often heard from STEM and healthcare faculty).

  • The cheating student will probably fail the tests and final exam anyway.

  • Academic freedom means the instructor should have freedom to make their own policy and deal with it however they like.

We must remember that the normal state for a faculty member is that they're incited and rewarded essentially to publish new research, and the teaching gig is a secondary issue. So, they almost surely don't have any budgeted extra hours to deal with the cheating cases when they do arise.

I'll say that in my case I frequently do give zero on an assignment as a first penalty, and only ask for higher institutional penalties on a second infraction or a more severe case. Lately I've started filing a report even for the first type of case, without requesting further sanctions.

I agree with the OP's intuition that it's likely cheating students are running the same scam in multiple classes in parallel. Even so, it's broadly unlikely that the institution is going to take action and hand out punishments just based on the fact that multiple reports were filed. On the other hand, I think where I am, our (excellent) academic integrity officer will look at the history of cases to decide severity of punishment for new cases that are found in violation. This will vary greatly by institution, of course.


Dealing with this kind of academic dishonesty is complicated.

For small infractions early in the semester in beginning courses I preferred to try to turn the incident into a learning experience for the student, who may be from a culture (foreign, or just high school) where the borderline between helping and cheating is not as clear as I might like.

At the beginning of my teaching career I tried to handle most cheating cases myself. At one point I failed two third year students for turning in a solution to a programming exercise that I recognized because I had written it myself as a model answer several years earlier. (Sometimes it's better to reuse a good programming exercise that teaches the subject best for honest learners rather than change it to foil the few students who might cheat.)

Later I followed the prescribed university reporting policy for any significant incident. That happened twice.

See https://www.cs.umb.edu/~eb/honesty/

Edit in response to a comment from @PeterMortensen

One case led to expulsion from the university - it was a serial offender. Finding them is one good reason for following university rules. I think the other led to failure in my course.

I like to hope that my work with beginning students who misunderstood the plagiarism/cheating rules learned the right lesson, but don't know. Some thanked me at the time.

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    So what was the difference in reasoning for why reporting later cases but not earlier ones? (Or are you saying your earlier cases were not "significant"?)
    – Kimball
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 11:40
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    @Kimball I changed my mind about the way I wanted to deal with these issues. At the start I thought I could manage them alone, but found myself easily swayed by crocodile tears. I still dealt with minor problems like the ones in the first paragraph of my answer, but followed faculty rules and invoked the established reasonable policies in the few serious cases I encountered. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 13:20
  • That is a cliffhanger! What happened to the students then and now? Did the students fundamentally change their attitude towards plagiarism? Did you speak to them years later and they brought this up unprompted? Perhaps elaborate a little bit in your answer? Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 22:22

In my experience, and from talking to colleagues over the years, there are a bunch of different reasons for this. The ones emphasized by the previous answers are all real (reports are time-consuming, instructors have bleeding-heart attitudes). However, there is a whole additional suite of reasons, some of which are of a less benign character.

  1. In some fields, especially physics, cheating using Chegg has become extremely widespread in recent years. This has been exacerbated by the use of online homework systems (so that instructors don't read much student work, and students don't fear getting caught) and also more recently by COVID, which has made Chegg cheating possible on exams. Because the cheating has gotten so pervasive, it has been ethically corrosive, and the attitude toward it has become like the attitude toward police corruption in many African countries -- it's part of the landscape, and you can't fix it.

  2. Punishment requires a high standard of proof, and the ability to convince deans without subject-matter knowledge that the proof is valid. Chegg cheating is a pain to prove, because Chegg is paywalled. The practical way to do it is for the instructor to pay for a Chegg membership, which then allows them to view the Chegg answers to their exam questions, but many instructors are understandably reluctant to give Chegg their money.

  3. Administrators fear lawsuits, and therefore they create policies that make punishment difficult, as well as not always supporting instructors in individual cases. It's common to have policies that guarantee only a warning for a first offense, and this makes reporting cases feel pointless. One might report a case in the hope that it will lead to apprehension of students who cheat multiple times, but this requires some faith that other instructors are reporting cases, which is probably not happening.

  4. Student evaluations of teaching are seen as very important to junior faculty. In addition, the advent of systems like ratemyprofessor has greatly shifted the balance of power away from instructors and toward students. There is intense pressure to lower standards, make students happy, and ignore cheating. There can be a "race to the bottom" dynamic, in which students desperately seek to enroll in the classes taught by the most permissive instructors. Low-enrollment classes can be canceled, or administrators can put pressure on instructors whom they perceive to be doing a bad job at ensuring student success.

The OP more specifically describes a situation in which homework is graded, and students are copying answers from previous semesters' solutions. I'll assume for the sake of argument that this is a math class, although a lot of the same considerations would apply to a class like physics or phonetics. In my experience, there was an arms-race phenomenon in these classes, where instructors felt that they had to make homework worth a lot of points in order to get their students to do the homework. If instructor A counts homework for 5% of the grade, and instructor B counts it for 20%, then students will spend more time on B's homework than on A's. This rewards B for having a high percentage and penalizes A for making it low. But when homework counts for as much as 20% of the grade, students have an intense incentive to cheat. For instructors who are being berated and bullied about giving too many low grades, an easy way to raise their grades is to decrease the weight of the exams relative to other things like homework. Then if there is widespread cheating on the homework ... yay, student success has increased.

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    Actually I doubt that ratemyprofessor has had any impact at all. Disgruntled students can disgrunt there, of course, but it is pretty meaningless. I've got at least one very bad report there, among several positive ones. I've had other students actually put down the disgrunters.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 14:21
  • @Buffy: Thanks for your comment. I've edited to explain more clearly what the dynamic is. It's very real.
    – user149030
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 14:28
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    Chegg will work with universities and colleges to identify cases of academic misconduct. Of course the underlying assumption is that the email address or other account information of a perpetrator is enough to correctly identify the said perpetrator. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 21:40

Academic dishonesty is technically hard to prove.

Sure, a student copies from the assignment from last year but… is it illegal? Is it stated as such in the course outline? How does this differ from finding a book in the library where the same problem has been worked out in details? What if the copies overlap by “only” by 90%? What if they overlap by 70%? And of course, the obvious point (which does not in any way excuse copying) is: if the instructor knows people are copying, why did this instructor assign the same problems as last year?

When dealing with assignments, the easy solution is to give 0: it avoids the paperwork (considerable), the timelines (long) and the sterile discussions of the items mentioned above.

Presumably individual assignments are worth a tiny fraction of the overall term mark (each question an even smaller fraction), and more importantly the instructor controls this fraction, so assigning 0 solves the local problem with minimum fuss.

As an instructor, I make it clear to students that if they cheat on assignments - which are not worth much - I’ll get them on the midterm and the final, which are taken in a much more controlled environment and in which collaboration, the use of electronic resources or other means of copying/cheating are not so readily available. I place heavy weight on exams rather than assignments. I very rarely use the same assignment (or exam) questions two years in a row; I am merciless in pursuing academic violations in exams and the students know it. This does not stop students from copying on assignments, but experience has shown that this is rarely a good path to success in my classes.

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    Actually, most academic misconduct, not just by students, is rarely a matter of law.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 17:12
  • @Buffy sure... but nevertheless unless you have a strong case it's usually easy (at least where I work) for students to weasel out of the allegations. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 18:45
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    In my experience, plagiarism is usually really obvious and easily established in most cases. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 19:33
  • @NicoleHamilton Hmmm… obvious cases of plagiarism are easily established, but even during a final exam catching a student “in the act” is not so easy, and establishing plagiarism “after the fact” is not always so easy… Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 20:42
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    @ZeroTheHero Ymmv but that's not my experience. When we reported someone to the Honor Council, the outcome was usually a finding of responsibility. Of course, it helps that we didn't report students unless we really had the goods on them. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 21:56

There are generally two types of tasks. One group is for student evaluation and includes exams and serious assignments. This group is for answering the question if the student is performing well enough to continue the studies. Cheating there is usually taken much more seriously.

Another group of the tasks are the "homework" tasks that are more to help a student with understanding. They are part of the learning process and are enforced only because too many students are not self-organized enough to complete them otherwise. Any cheating when doing these homework tasks harms the cheater more than anybody else. They will pay during the exam.


It doesn't seem fair to me that there is no formal reprimand for cheating other than getting a 0 on the question. When I have asked instructors about this, their reasoning is that creating a formal hearing/meeting is too much work, and they often add that the students (who are overwhelmingly international students) may not understand that directly copying solutions is not acceptable.

Without going into a full cultural background, Asian students do not look at copying in the same manner as Westerners do. Westerners label it "plagiarism" or "cheating," but Asians see it as necessary for their survival to identify the most gifted and to imitate their correct responses. It is common practice in Asia for instructors to ignore or even to assist a student's copying. Asian learners place a high value on principles of uniformity in which the best and most commendable are to be imitated by others.

My first teaching experience in Asia, freshly graduated and certified to teach, gave me some exposure to the "cheating." Having been taught to deter cheaters by creating multiple forms of a test, I had a form A and a form B which I passed out to the students in their adjacent rows. When a student would copy from the one beside him or her, he or she, apart from getting the wrong answer, would be giving me evidence of cheating. Upon grading the exams, I discovered that fully a third of the class had been consistently cheating (those who cheated on just a question here or a question there may have slipped through the cracks). Having been taught traditional Western values, I gave each of those students a zero on the exam. One student questioned me, and showed me that her answers had been the same as those of the student beside her! Her entire countenance was the picture of a question mark, obviously not understanding what had happened. I pointed to the "Form A" and the "Form B" on each of the tests she was comparing and, being intelligent enough, she instantly grasped what had happened. "Teacher," she said in her broken English, "me bad." And she made no further complaint. In her culture, cheating was not wrong unless, and until, you were caught. For the next exam I created four forms so that not even the student in front or behind could have provided the correct answers--but none of them cheated this time. They had learned their lesson--don't cheat with the foreign teacher!

In my case, giving zeros was education enough. They needed no formal proceedings, nor even did I lecture them about it.

Asians realize that not all have the same gifts. The very students who may be at the top of the class in mathematics, and from whom all copy their answers in that class, may be mediocre in history, and be copying from their classmates. The sharing of answers comes naturally to them in their cooperative society. Westerners, on the other hand, have a much more individualistic worldview and expect each person to solve problems alone, with little or no help.

Instructors who have enough experience to realize and understand these differences in thinking will be far more likely to show greater tolerance for the foreign "cheaters" in class. It is more important that these students be taught how to learn and to find answers for themselves than to merely punish them for something that they would not grasp as worthy of such severe treatment.

  • Interestingly enough, some form of "cheating" in industry is actually a sought-after skill. The ethics of the question quickly becomes complicated, and Asian vs Western cultural differences highlight that as nothing else.
    – Lodinn
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 11:07
  • -1 for overgeneralizations about Asia and the West
    – Kimball
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 15:45
  • I must have been born Asian and never realized.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 12:58

Good instructors care about the students mastering the study material. Homework problems do help with this effort, but grading of homework and exams to test students comes at the expense of this effort. So, you don't want to invest a lot in perfecting the grading system w.r.t. some notion of fairness as that has very little to do with the objective of the teaching effort.

Students may have seen a homework problem and its solution somewhere before, they can't be faulted for being able to score a lot higher than they would otherwise have done because of that. A good instructor should tell the students that they should practice with difficult problems, that the homework problems they get are just to check that they are not falling behind too much, but that only doing the homework problems will not yield a good result at the exam.

The students should also be told that passing the exam is not proof that the study material has been mastered perfectly. Students who aim at just passing the exam will be unlikely to qualify for a Ph.D. position. When I was a student, a passing grade was 60%, but most professors considered 80% to be the minimum standard. A student who passed more than a few subjects below the 80% mark would not be accepted for a Ph.D. position. We didn't have graded homework at the time, we instead studied using only challenging practice problems that were too hard to be suitable problems for grading.

  • Okay, but... I don't see how most of your answer is directly related to students cheating or the reporting thereof.
    – Kimball
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 11:38
  • @Kimball I focused mostly on the second question of the OP "Why don't the instructors want to take any additional steps?". So, if we take the perspective that at university we're doing research and we're teaching to transferring knowledge to make students master various topics, then cheating isn't going to be much of a concern. It's not something worth wasting time on. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 15:35

Enforcing academic integrity violations through the university system is very costly to the professor in terms of time and effort. The system is burdensome, complex, and sometimes capricious. Professors, therefore, have little incentive to use that method. That's the answer to your question.

I would use the university's honor system if the violation was of sufficient magnitude that I thought the appropriate punishment for the student is greater than what I, as their professor, could easily enforce. For example, if I thought the student should be kicked out of school. I would also use the system if I wanted to fail a student from my class, most likely.

I have encountered academic integrity violations on two occasions, neither of which were what I would call very severe. After meeting with the students, privately, I reduced the semester grade of one by a letter grade and the other by half a letter. Those enforcements required zero effort on my part and left a lasting impression on the students. In each case, I also offered to go through the university system if the students preferred, but they also did not want that.


I recall from when I was a student one student wished to do some programming over the summer and hence implemented the compiler from last year's assignment without before having been to the lectures. Another student copy an assignment from a student in the next year and got found out as the assignment had changed a little.

How can the difference between the two be proved to a strong enough edvidance level to remove one of these students from university?

  • Copying is usually a lot more obvious than I think you imagine. Side-by-side, it's not usually a hard call whether they're copied. Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 19:29
  • I had a colleague whose work you could hold side-by-side with mine, and it would be the same. Close enough that I couldn't decide who wrote it. The first time I saw any of his work I just thought "strange, I can't remember writing this".
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 12:56

When I have asked instructors about this, their reasoning is that creating a formal hearing/meeting is too much work. Not to mention the endless cycle of additional hearings and paperwork that may follow, and the horrible embarrassments and humiliations that result as soon as mid-level idiots get involved.

Should you ever become an instructor yourself, by all means go ahead and learn the hard way.


I suppose that students should study old exams, for example, and learn the techniques used, for example. And some students have good memories. There are a few proofs that I could write down, that would be very, very similar to a textbook. And there is no copying involved.

But there is a simple way to check. Just take the student, and ask them the same exam question, and check if they can answer it on the spot. And better yet, try to modify the question slightly so it requires a different answer, and check if they can reply. If yes, they actually know the material.

Apart from that, why are you copying previous exam questions, if giving the same answer gives a student zero points? That seems incredibly unfair.

  • OP wasn't talking about exams. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 13:52
  • Works the same with homework.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 19:10

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