Summary: Coming from Russian university student, cheating at exams seems normal and encouraged. Why is it so much more frowned upon at the North American/western universities?

Ok, I assume that most people viewing this question are from the US, or at least from the West. This question is something that got me kicked off Reddit for "promoting cheating". I spend a lot of my time in the American infosphere and one thing that always baffled me is the apparent attitude towards cheating, plagiarism etc. It seems that everyone (including the students) see it as immoral or the like. Here in Russia cheating is a normal part of student life. It is seen as a way of bolstering your grade/passing a class and is only bad in the sense that you might get caught. And you are not a thief until you are caught...

I don't remember a single serious exam I didn't prepare some cheat sheets for at least as plan B. Not doing so would have simply been callous on my side. Helping each other cheat is expected of friends, and no fellow student would ever see it as immoral. Students cheating and professors trying (or at least pretending to try) to catch them is a normal and expected game of cat and mouse. It isn't something you necessarily do out of desperation or laziness but something you do if you can get away with it.

My question is why it seems to be such a big deal in the West (and in America in particular)? I have seen movies where students buying course papers from each other is a major plot point and is presented as something horrible and not as something totally mundane. Would people in the US be comfortable telling stories about how they managed to cheat on exams to their bosses during small talk?

Edit: Just to clarify, I don't see cheating as something that should be ignored by professors. I just don't see a moral dimension to the issue: if you can get away with it, it is not your problem. Nor is it such a big deal to try.

Edit 2: Another accidental observation. Just reading the questions that pop up in the "related" section makes me cringe:

"Is it cheating if you guess on multiple choice questions?" "Is it cheating if you know the solution in advance?"

It simply wouldn't have occurred to me to ask these questions. "If you can't get caught, then there isn't anything to worry about" is the way I see it. The fact that people even consider these questions points to a profound difference in our mentality.

Edit 3. I understand that "Western" is a vague term, but I chose to use it because I am also interested in perspectives from other "Western" countries - not necessarily just the USA.

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Academia Meta, or in Academia Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 7, 2023 at 16:03
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    Voted to close because this question seems not asked in good faith. OP is engaging in argument with every answer posted. The Reddit ban for "promoting cheating" is not off the mark (and/or trolling the site). Apr 7, 2023 at 17:56
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    Just curious about one thing. If cheating (without getting caught?) is almost encouraged, what is the point of grades or tests? Just to see how good of a cheater you are? Why aren't all classes just pass/fail? Apr 7, 2023 at 19:10
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    @JasonGoemaat It is not encouraged in any way. Just not viewed as morally wrong to try. You may still get caught and, depending on the subject/professor you may have your grade lowered or have to redo the exam. The point of grading is the same as anywhere: to assess your level. Oftentimes the exams are constructed such that cheating alone is not enough to pass. Oral exams are common, and even if it is a maths exam you may be asked to explain your reasoning. Apr 8, 2023 at 13:20
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    This seems to be a troll question written to defame Russia. It would be useful if you actually give Russian references where they mention cheating as a normal and encouraged attitude. If it is so common, you should be able to find some, don't you?
    – Amelian
    Apr 13, 2023 at 2:46

7 Answers 7


I graduated from a Russian university and later taught for years at an Australian university, so I understand your question very well. In my opinion, the reason for the phenomenon you're asking about is multifold, and I will now make a few points to explain my view.

I have to start with an important caveat though. The West isn't uniform, and my answer is specifically about Australia. For a German point of view, read another answer.

1. While students at Russian universities are generally graded against well-defined standards, students at Australian universities are often graded on a curve, that is, against their peers. This means that if you cheat at a Russian university, your cheating won't affect the grades of other students, and that is why your cheating is simply none of their business. And that's often not the case at Australian universities.

In response to comments below, I want to clarify that grading on a curve is often implicit rather than explicit. When I taught at an Australian university, we first gave each student a score according to our assessment criteria, like in Russia, and then, when all scores were known, we decided how to convert these scores to grades on the scale of 100 - and the latter grades were written in transcripts. The conversion rule was chosen each time on the ad-hoc basis and had to be such that outstanding students (say, top 5-10%) got a grade above 90 (but never 100), while average students got something like 75. So, it was, in effect, a curve, but we didn't really explain this to students, so I guess that some of them were not fully aware of the competitive character of the grading process. Still, I believe that many students realized, at least on some level, that they were compared to others in the grading process and that this could affect the grades.

In contrast, it is quite normal in Russia to give every student in the class the highest possible grade, отлично - or, for example, to give most students the lowest passing grade, удовлетворительно. The point is that there are no expectations whatsoever from Russian teachers regarding the mean value and spread of the grades. Russian teachers are expected to clearly define standards before the exam and then blindly grade against them.

One more clarification: A comment below says that grading on a curve is likely to increase cheating, not the other way around, and that well may be true (provided that all other factors are the same), but OP is asking about how your cheating is viewed by others. And my point is that if grading is on a curve and you cheat, you basically push the grades of your peers down. So, I think it's understandable how they feel about cheaters - and they woudn't feel that way if grading wasn't on a curve. Also, teachers who grade on a curve have an additional motivation to ensure that no cheating takes place, to avoid fair students getting "robbed" by cheaters.

2. Australian universities care much more about their reputation than Russian universities do, because a good reputation helps attract students who are prepared to pay a high tuition fee. In Australia, students pay a lot of money for their education. Getting a BS degree in Australia can easily cost you A$100,000 (which is about US$70,000). Tuition fees are a considerable part of a university's income. And each university is free to set its own tuition fee. So, if a university gets notorious for letting its students cheat, its reputation gets destroyed, and so does its ability to attract well-paying students. After all, students want a diploma of a reputable university. And in order to remain reputable, Australian universities strive to eradicate cheating.

In contrast, education at Russian universities has been free for decades. Now many Russian universities have started introducing tuition fees, but they are not as large as in Australia, and many Russian students still pay nothing for their university education. In Russia, if you get good scores for your school-leaving exams (ЕГЭ), you will be able to choose between many universities that will grant you a tuition waiver. And if you don't get good scores, you probably don't need a university education in the first place. At any rate, Russian universities are largely state-funded, and their income doesn't depend on their reputation as strongly as for Australian universities.

So, when you cheat at a Russian university, you harm neither your fellow students, who are graded independently of your grade, nor the university itself, which gets funded by the state according to some formal criteria that your cheating has nothing to do with. So, if you don't make any obvious harm to the university or your peers, why would anyone at your university be really bothered by your cheating? No harm, no foul.

3. Academic staff at Russian universities are notoriously underpaid, with the typical salary being US$500 per month or so. They barely make ends meet, at least unless they have a second source of income such as a second job or private tutoring. As a result, they don't really value their university teaching jobs. So, they don't really care when they teach. And, consequently, they don't really care about cheating. Furthermore, if you are a Russian university teacher and let your students cheat, you'll be able to give them good grades, and that will be a good cover-up of your poor teaching - and you have to cover it up because your teaching is as good as your salary check is.

In contrast, academic staff at Australian universities are relatively well-paid. Professors in Australia make about A$200,000 per year (which is US$130,000). So, they value their jobs. They really care. And no professor wants to get notorious for letting students cheat, for no university will tolerate this - see my second point above.

4. Students in Australia tend to have a more responsible approach towards their studies as compared to their Russian counterparts, in my experience. After all, Australian students pay a lot for their education, so they naturally want to get real knowledge. And this makes them less inclined to cheat.

5. Finally, cultural differences play a role, too. Australians tend to be much less tolerant towards cheating in general (e.g., cheating on taxes) than Russians are, in my experience.

At any rate, there's no simple answer to your question. It's a very complex picture involving many factors, and I'm unsure whether I've listed all of them.

And I'm sorry if my answer seems too critical of Russian universities. I hope they are improving now, although the recent geopolitical developments don't add optimism, to be honest.

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Academia Meta, or in Academia Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 7, 2023 at 18:25
  • You should note that "Professor" in Australia means "full Professor" in the US. It is not true that every tenured academic earns $200k! People might get an inflated expectation of academic salaries here. Jun 9, 2023 at 4:36

There is a profound cultural and factual difference in understanding the society between the rule-of-law democratic countries ("the West" in the Russian parlance) on one side and the ex-USSR space on the other side.

In "the West" law, order and various rules are seen to be:

  • beneficial for the society as a whole
  • beneficial for the society members (people breaking the rules may see short term advantage, but long term resistance as well)
  • subject to change, should a general consensus of changing them is established
  • livable in the first place
  • generally enforced
  • usually take precedence over what the boss says

Another important fact is that the education certificate (diploma) is good, but is in no way a replacement for the actual abilities and competence when we talk about earning money.

"In Soviet Russia" everything is the other way round.

  • Rules are from the above. Even if they change, the average Ivan has no business thereof.
  • It is generally hard to follow the rules. They are hardly ever evaluated for efficiency or acceptability (no feedback so no one cares).
  • Rules are enforced sporadically and selectively.
  • The best-known social elevator is breaking the rules in one way or another (corruption, stealing, etc...). People doing this precisely are seen as successful and see approval instead of resistance.
  • The society well-being is a ruler's business, not everyone's.

Back in the USSR times, diploma determined your work position and your actual competence had little to do with your income. It is not exactly like this anymore, but the diploma fetish is pretty much entrenched.

So here we go.

The authority or rules of any kind and form are seen as an obstacle and people learn from early age that the ability to evade them is a must.

If two or more people are in a position to share the need of a particular rule evasion, they unite against the rules ad-hoc, no conspiracy needed.

Cheating on exams is how the school prepares children for their adult life.

The only really forbidding road sign is a big, heavy concrete beam blocking the whole width of the road. Everything else is a mere recommendation.

In regard to the integrity and "keeping your word":

  • In "the West", keeping your word is keeping your word. There is no profound difference between cheating your wife, cheating on exam, cheating in your tax form or stealing an item from the neighbor.
  • On the other side of the iron curtain, cheating "the system" (be it your boss, the government or the grocery store) is really, really morally different from doing the same to people equal to you (friends, family, direct contractual partners or even an unknown person on the street). The former is acceptable and sometimes approved, the latter is not.

p.s. I am not going to say that neither of these things is unknown at the other side, but the general mechanisms of life, the universe and everything else are exactly as stated above.

This is a first-hand experience. I spent a half of my life on both sides.

p.p.s Contrary to the popular western belief, there is such a thing as "the West" from the Russian viewpoint. Russians are so much culturally different that the "subtle" differences between Greece, Norway, France, USA or Japan look unimportant to them. Yes, Japan and S. Korea are part of "the West". It is easier to count the places that are not "the West", but the list is rather dynamic these days.

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    This is the best answer. I subscribe to every point. Especially to the one on "keeping the word". Apr 8, 2023 at 0:47
  • A valuable perspective, thanks for writing this. Apr 8, 2023 at 3:54
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    Very interesting; based on that description I would say that the prevailing viewpoint in Italy is more like your "soviet Russia" than your "the West". Apr 8, 2023 at 21:34
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    @FedericoPoloni believe me, I know what I am talking about. Italy is an outlier when compared to e.g the averaged EU. Compared to Russia, it goes firmly into "the West" cluster.
    – fraxinus
    Apr 8, 2023 at 22:22
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    "There is no profound difference between cheating your wife, cheating on exam, cheating in your tax form or stealing an item from the neighbor." I can assure you that many people in, e.g., Germany will consider several (or all) of those things to be really profoundly different. Apr 10, 2023 at 22:25

Much I could say, but as others have asked, would you want the person doing brain surgery on you to have obtained his degree not because he himself passed Med school, but because the girl up the hall did all his exams?

Are you okay with him cutting into your head? If not, why not? If not, ask why he should be allowed to be a brain surgeon at all. If he lacks the knowledge of the brain to be one and doesn't have the requisite experience to know what he needs to do for his job, by himself, then why should he be in that position to begin with?

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    @IamCleaver Some people don't cheat because they see it as wrong. Others don't want to face the consequences like expulsion.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 7, 2023 at 13:53
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    @IamCleaver It applies for every skilled profession in a trust-based society. Do you want the service of a poorly trained accountant? Do you want a cheating engineer designing a bridge you will drive over? Do you want the person running your city's water treatment plant to understand its systems? The more complex and interconnected our society, the more that we have to rely on other people, and the more that it matters that those people are actually well-trained to do their work.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 7, 2023 at 14:00
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    @IamCleaver what makes it extreme? Do you want someone that doesn't know about engineering and physics and structures to build your house? What if his wife took all his exams and wrote the papers he needed to write? Are you okay with him building your house? And don't tell me it's extreme, I'm genuinely asking you. Apr 7, 2023 at 14:10
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    @jakebeal Do you want a cheating officer in charge of maintenance of military vehicles?
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 7, 2023 at 16:05
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    @IamCleaver If you're not ok with everyone cheating their way through school (including brain surgeons), it's hard to argue that it's ok for anyone without engaging in obvious special pleading. Apr 7, 2023 at 21:10

First of all:

Here in Russia cheating is a normal part of student life. It is seen as a way of bolstering your grade/passing a class and is only bad in the sense that you might get caught.

I am going to assume for the purposes of this question that this is indeed the prevalent thinking among Russian students. (As opposed to an issue localized to your university / your group of friends, or motivated reasoning of the "thiefs think everyone steal" variety.)

I do agree with the comments that it is part of a larger societal trend, which I will try my best to illuminate. However, please keep in mind that I am not a political scientist, and I have not spent any meaningful amount of time in non-Western countries to have first-hand experience of the conditions there.

While "the West" is a rather large and inhomogeneous group of countries, the belief in the rule of law is a common cultural feature in those countries (or at least the intelligentsia of those countries, which includes both students and professors at universities).

The concept (simplified for the purposes of this answer) is that there should be open and clear rules, it is legitimate for established authorities to enforce those rules, and there should be mechanisms to ensure the enforcement is fair. ("Rules" here is not restricted to written laws and regulations - cutting in line at the grocery store would be a rule violation, which would be seen negatively both by by people in the queue with a direct interest in your actions, but also by the shop clerk and non-queuing clients in the store.)

The key part is that the rule of law binds the authority as well as the citizens. This is what makes the citizens voluntarily agree in principle to follow the rules; they are not a top-down decree enforced by raw force, but a two-way give-and-take contract. Some examples of this thinking as applied to exams, viewed as part of a grand teaching bargain ("I promise to test you under such and such conditions, and in exchange you promise to work hard and not cheat")

Now, that lofty ideal has obviously some faults. For instance, individuals and companies with money and connections can more effectively manipulate the system to create rules that favor them. Sometimes, the rules are vague enough that enforcement is arbitrary; or the rules that bind the authority are lax enough that it can get away with anything. But that is generally seen as a bad thing, a defect in the system, rather than an unescapable fact of life. People try vigorously to change the rules in a way that suits them. If you believe the authority will do anything that suits them regardless of the rules, you don’t bother doing that - either you try to break the rules and not get caught, or you try overthrowing the authority.

My understanding is that Russian society does not view administrative rules the same way. (Religious/cultural rules might be a different thing.) They are seen at best as non-binding statements of intention from the authority ("here are your orders, if you follow them you won’t get in trouble, until further notice") or at worst as mere theater ("we are a totally legit country with solid institutions, well-functioning courts etc."), such as in that example (in Chechnya, but I don’t think a similar thing would be unthinkable in Moscow). In that view, rule-breaking is normal and expected, because the rule has no legitimity to speak of, and the authority would be foolish to rely on compliance unless it can enforce it by raw force.

I would also note that in Asian countries, in particular China, there is a strong deference to rules. Those rules might not be of the same nature as in the West: for instance, guanxi (i.e. reliance of your network to obtain favors from the authority that others would not have access to) is generally considered proper, whereas in the West it would generally be shunned as nepotism or cronyism.

  • "here are your orders, if you follow them you won’t get in trouble, until further notice" Isn't that how it is in all places where there is written law??? Apr 7, 2023 at 11:46
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    @IamCleaver fair enough, but my point was the capriciousness of the rules. In a rule of law society, changes are (supposed to) come with a lot of advance notice, with clear justification (especially if they reverse course compared to the previous rules), and the citizens can give input into what the new rules will be. (Of course that doesn’t happen this way because power corrupts etc. but that’s at least the ideal.)
    – KFK
    Apr 7, 2023 at 11:59
  • "motivated reasoning of the "thiefs think everyone steal" variety" That is the thing: I don't care whether everyone is cheating. In fact, if nobody is cheating but me than I get an even greater advantage. It is their loss as far a I am personally concerned Apr 7, 2023 at 13:04
  • Networking is explicitly encouraged by almost all career advisors and schools' career office in US. In China, networking is usually discouraged by professors. Moreover, networking between high officers/executives is forbidden by rule under current administration.
    – dodo
    Apr 7, 2023 at 19:18

If I was asked for the underlying reason that cheating is viewed as bad in the west I would say there are two contributing factors: 1) normative ethical tools that have been developed and implemented in western cultures, and 2) the view that education is about improving society, not just a piece of paper.

Before discussing the first factor, I would not be surprised if your and your colleagues points of view are more in line with those from the west in the medieval time. That is basically because at that time societies had developed fewer tools to help two random people to trust each other. So in this sense it makes more sense to be out for yourself, cheat by making yourself look brilliant, pay less taxes, help to promote your family or those in your society at the expense of others.

The tools I'm talking about having been developed are norms, behaviours that society decide are worthwhile and so people will go a little bit out of their way to enforce, if you get enough people agreeing on a norm then it becomes very hard to break from that norm. If the norm improves trust, e.g. checks and balances in government, limitations on wealth/power concentration, agreement that you won't cheat on tests, then people begin to be able to re-orient from spending a bunch of effort on verifying every new person they meet and making sure they aren't being screwed over by others to more productive/pleasurable things. For these norms to hold consistently the view that violating them are immoral or unethical categorically, rather then only bad if you are discovered, is important.

These tools probably happen to leverage our biology to help make sure everyone agrees to the norms. Once something is viewed as moral or just, then we tend to feel bad when doing it and may go out of our way to punish someone for violating these norms (e.g. you might go out of your way to punish a person who tells the lecturer how everyone cheated). Look up experimental tests of the prisoner's dilemma and the ultimatum game to see that (I believe it is) the pleasure centers of our brains light up when we dispense justice, whatever we consider that to be.

So why do people agree to the norms and keep agreeing, I'm going to guess that its from a few thinkers who sat down and tried to work out what kinds of new behaviours would help society become better. Once they have their beliefs they then tried to convince others that this should be done and sometimes these beliefs spread far enough that they become entrenched. After entrenchment there will always be some people who think about why do we do what we do and come to similar conclusions, applying stronger pressure or convincing others that even if this norm harms us in the short term, it will help us and the people we care about in the long term.

The second factor is that education is viewed not as a door to something better, but something that makes you better yourself. Think of it like exercise (and we are going to ignore steroids here), if you put the effort into exercising properly then you'll end up strong no matter how you're tested. If you instead find a trick so that when you are tested, you are actually lifting less weight then you are suppose to for your test then you just appear to be strong. So if strength is necessary to get a job then cheating makes sense, if you want to be able to apply your strength in a variety of scenarios, then cheating doesn't make sense.

From this point of view those questions you mentioned (is guessing cheating, is it cheating if I know that answer) start to make sense if you view education and tests as about your intrinsic smartness rather then how smart you appear. In theory I could know nothing about a topic and get 100% on a multiple choice test, but that's just an illusion of my actual skill and when people find out that I somehow violated that norm then people will go out of their way to penalise me for creating that illusion. Similarly I may have only the flimsiest grasp of topic X but happened to work through the question that appeared on the exam last night, creating the illusion of competence and possibly also of cheating once people find out (and associated penalties). Note that this is not really how people think in the west, but I think it captures the basic ideas if you were not raised in this society and are trying to understand it.

In all these cases you have conflicts between the different norms you've learnt from different societies and your situation. You might be really struggling with a course and so try to cheat, or you want to signal your intelligence to your friend group by "outwitting" the lecturer. Or you might think of the course as not meaningful or worth your time and just a roadblock to something more worthwhile and so decide to cheat so you can put your time towards something more valuable/will be able to reach a position to help people sooner. In all these cases the norm of "cheating = bad" helps to apply pressure so the norm of "everyone cheats" is suppressed and prevents the negatives that come with that second norm (e.g. incompetence).

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    yes and no, in a sense they are tools that allow you to be blind to short term opportunities for long term payoffs, the inability to take this option also allows other people to trust you. Lets say no one cheats and your grade is a valid representation of your skill, then if you (one person) cheats you improve your apparent skill and your grade is now considered an almost certain valid representation of your skill. Then as more and more people cheat the chance your grade is a valid representation of your skill decreases until it's almost certainly wrong and your grade loses value. Apr 7, 2023 at 13:56
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    At this point your grade becomes valued only as an upper bound to your skill rather than a lower bound or true skill level. Obviously the grade being perceived as an upper bound is worst than it being a representation. And your personal behaviour is not going to really change public perception, so if everyone cheats, so should you, otherwise people will know you might only be average at best rather than at least average in this skill, so you cheat so people know you are brilliant at best, so possibly above average and can get a job. Apr 7, 2023 at 14:00
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    The group agreement that cheating is bad now becomes a tool to keep the value of your degree high, something which benefits you more in the future. You may want to look up prisoner's dilemma, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma , particularly multi-player games to understand how suffering in the short term can give you more gains in the longer term Apr 7, 2023 at 14:04
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    "So why do people agree to the norms and keep agreeing, I'm going to guess that its from a few thinkers who sat down and tried to work out what kinds of new behaviours would help society become better." Uh, rather than guessing, you may want to look up the history of the Protestant Reformation and how that affected societal ethics in the West. Apr 7, 2023 at 15:35
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    @IamCleaver You should actually read the material about the prisoner's dilemma. When the relationship is ongoing (i.e., iterative games), cheating becomes disadvantageous.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 9, 2023 at 12:12

The moral side of cheating is easy enough to see: using illegal means to get an undeserved advantage on your fellow students (or citizens, when cheating on taxes; or friends, when cheating in games; or scientists, when cheating their results... you got it).

I don't think that cheating can ever be not harmful to anybody. Even after reading Sandra's answer, there is no cheating that has "no harm done". You are at least damaging people that will trust you to be prepared to do a job and not to be prepared to cheat through it. Do you ever think about how many exams were approved by cheating by the engineer that has designed the elevator you are using?

So cheating denotes a lack of social feeling; you can call it a lack of empathy for the people around you. You can do it by ignorance, by lack of self-esteem, or by sheer greed, but always you just avoid thinking you are damaging somebody. Higher education is thought to be a tool to prepare young people to be useful to society; they sign a social contract when starting it, and cheating means they are not able to be really useful. The instructors' task is to correct such behavior the best they can.

I do not really think that all people in Russia believe cheating is morally ok. I have acquaintances (among them a girl from Cuba that studied in the URSS in Vladivostock) that is one the fieriest defender of academic (and general) honesty.

And yes, I know real life is different; people cheat and sometimes even are proud of it. That does not mean that the ethical way is to try to teach that this behavior harms and that nice people don't do it.

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    Cheating doesn't harm anyone concrete, that is somebody I know personally. Saying that it harms abstract people who may or may not suffer as a result of actions that may or may not occur as the result of me using my smartphone during my chemical engineering exam is a weak argument. As an engineer I carry the responsibility for my actions no matter how much I cheated during exams. The real and immediate social responsibility to help my friends and not to snitch on my fellow classmates far outweighs any hypothetical damage that may or may not occur as a result of it. Apr 8, 2023 at 12:39
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    @IamCleaver Your objection here contradicts your objection to the answer above: academia.stackexchange.com/a/195041/22733 Please reflect and comment. If you don't see how your statements are contradictory, then you either beyond help or are a troll.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 9, 2023 at 12:16

I'm not sure whether many students in the "Western" countries actually see cheating as that big a deal. I come from (Western) Germany, and when I was a student (pretty long ago), I knew many fellow students who would cheat and brag about not getting caught, and there was also this kind of moral code that would imply that it is good and nice to help your friends cheat, and you're rather the evil one if you don't. Not sure whether it's still like that or how widespread this phenomenon is, but in my perception for sure it does happen in "the West" as well.

Consequently, as a lecturer I don't think it's a moral issue in the first place. Cheating is bad for learning and has bad consequences, e.g., people not being up for later courses that they take or even for their jobs, also maybe discouraging or frustrating honest students who would be up for learning properly, but of course I also know that not every student later needs to properly know and understand everything I teach, so students may cheat and it may, at times, not do harm. As a lecturer it's my job to try to stop students from cheating, and there need to be severe penalties and measures to stop them cheating, so that students are properly discouraged from cheating. But if students get caught I don't try to make it a moral issue. They are penalised and that's it. I also don't like to use moral appeals to put students off cheating because I think that this implicitly communicates that penalties and measures against cheating are not strong enough, which may in turn actually encourage cheating.

I like open book exams allowing students to use all written material, so cheat sheets are no issue for me. I also try to make my exams so that they are hard to cheat on, but apart from "open book" (which surely helps against a certain way of cheating) I'm not sure how well this can ever work. I think also as university teachers in "the West" we need to accept it as a reality that the moral barrier against cheating is very low.

Also, in my view, capitalism encourages everybody to put their own advantage first (on which I'm not particularly keen), which means that I'd not be surprised about a rather lax attitude to cheating in countries with a long and strong capitalist history (I'm alluding to certain "Western" countries here). Cheating on tax returns is a big issue pretty much everywhere, isn't it?

I'm not an expert on Russian culture, however I am interested in what I can pick up. I fairly recently had a discussion with a Russian, who said that in Russia (and maybe in other countries with authoritarian governments or a strong history of such governments) "playing by the rules" isn't something that can be justified ethically, but is rather only a strategy of survival, and often not in line with what people really think, rather there is general distrust in the justification of rules, and consequently, as long as people can get away with breaking them, there is no moral consideration that would stop them from doing so. This makes much sense to me, except that I don't think (as said above) that in "the West" things are that different.

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    "Also, in my view, capitalism encourages everybody to put their own advantage first (on which I'm not particularly keen), which means that I'm not surprised about a rather lax attitude to cheating in countries with a long and strong capitalist history." You mean like the long history of communism in OPs Russia? Downvoted just for that alone. Apr 7, 2023 at 12:21
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    @Oбжорoв That specific part wasn't meant to say anything about either Russia or communism. It rather was about certain "Western" capitalist countries. (Edited it to make that clearer.) Apr 7, 2023 at 14:19
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    This answer again generalizes "the west" as if it was homogeneous, and does not actually give examples of what would be cheating. For example in Germany many politicians got Doctoral degrees through plagiarism and slowly they are losing them due to this, and the legal system agrees that degrees based on lies can be revoked. Also you should consider differences across fields as cheating is very different across them.
    – Dr. Snoopy
    Apr 7, 2023 at 14:46
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    @IamCleaver Having top marks in a University where it is known that grades are inflated by cheating means nothing. The net effect is that honest and probably better students at that university suffer direct harm from the cheating (and the tolerance to it. In my class, the only possible solution for cheating is to bail out of the course and repeat it next year — when I catch it, clearly. But you know, after the first two cases, people learn what they can or can't do.)
    – Rmano
    Apr 7, 2023 at 14:50
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    @Chan-HoSuh: I think your story about the take-home exam highlights a cultural difference between US and German academia quite well (not only regarding cheating, but also regarding the role of exams in general). The idea that something like a take-home exam could even exist had never crossed my (German) mind until I read about the concept on this site some years ago - and when I first read about it, my reaction was quite similar to that of your German postdoc colleague. Apr 12, 2023 at 0:42

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