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I am a junior student at a private engineering college. The amount of dishonesty I have seen in the last 3 years is tremendous.

There has not been a single assignment which hasn't been plagiarized by the entire class. Usually a couple of people do it early and everyone just copies it from them. This is not even considered cheating but rather treated as real work. Some of my friends think that this is the way assignments are supposed to be done because this is the kind of culture they have heard about from their friends in other colleges and even from lecturers' description of their years in college. It does not end here.

I have seen the entire class cheating in exams. Almost every time, there are people who are carrying the entire book in their pockets to cheat from. They generally get the textbook copied to A6 or A7 pages. Numerous times I have seen invigilators either actively passing around answers or mostly just letting everyone and anyone copy answers from each other.

Our course grades are decided 80% by the final exam and 20% by mid term examinations. I have seen very few(hardly 3-5 course instructors out of the 36 courses I have taken so far) course instructors who did not manipulate the 20% mid term grades heavily. Each semester has a certain number of labs and these grades are also rigged.

There have been exams when every single person in the university knew the question paper in advance. It was reported in the newspapers but was plainly brushed aside by the university management.

This has effected the quality of my education to an unusual extent. It is very lucrative to cheat when you realize that you are failing the course and a single peek can pass you. I do not think I will be able to stand against this alarming tolerance for dishonesty any longer.

It makes me question the authenticity, if there is any left, of my degree and the value of my education. Can I do anything at all to change the status quo? How should I go about collecting facts around this and document my findings as something concrete that will likely create an impact?

Edit: I should make an important distinction between my university and college and clarify that my university is an Affiliating University. There are 128 engineering colleges in the state, both public and private, that operate directly under it. If you were to pick say 5 colleges in this sorry mess that attract the most employers, my college will certainly be in that list. Yet, that says nothing among the quality of the jobs offered which are both low-paying and disappointing.

I have sat and talked about this with my parents and professors. A lot of answers suggest transfer or a fresh application to a different institute. I am, however, reluctant to go for either of these for a variety of reasons.

  • There is a serious lack of such institutions in India. I have talked to a lot of people from all parts of the country and the academic dishonesty is omnipresent. I would not be surprised if a link is ever found between academic dishonesty and bureaucratic corruption. A handful of institutions which still uphold the standards of formal education (by my perception) do not have undergrad programs or they are terribly tough to get in.
  • The financial burden of a fresh application or more expensive tuition at a different institution will be huge. Most of the scholarships offered in India are based on GPA or Entrance Exam scores, the rest are only for applicants of certain castes. Neither do I boast phenomenal test scores nor am I from those castes.
  • Physical classrooms are a very inefficient method for delivery of information and ideas. A fair share of what I have learnt comes from the freelancing and the internet. I have varied interests in a lot of subjects. For that reason, I have rarely been doing anything for longer than a month or two. I have been a huge supporter of OpenCourseWare movement and MOOCs for a long time.
  • The only reason I have not dropped out yet is because I do not know what will I do if I drop out and secondly, I find college an amazing place to interact with a lot of people.
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    Don't walk. Run. Transfer somewhere else. – JeffE May 15 '15 at 12:24
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    @JeffE transfers do not exist at my University. Even then if you are to judge from the number of employers a college attracts, my college attracts a lot. It ranks among the best colleges in the state. This is rather an example that things are much more worse at other colleges and that colleges that attract the creamy layer from entrance examinations have an edge with the employers. – Volis May 16 '15 at 11:10
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    transfers do not exist at my University — Then submit a fresh application to somewhere else. — It ranks among the best colleges in the state. — Move to a different state. – JeffE May 16 '15 at 17:56
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    In your comment above you state that your university "ranks among the best colleges in the state", while in a comment below you state that "the university does not have any credibility left". How could it rank as one of the best and why trust or, even, pay attention, to that kind of ranking? – Aleksandr Blekh May 20 '15 at 5:50
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    I can only support what Jeff says. For anyone knowing the situation in your university, a degree from it would mean nothing. – Davidmh May 20 '15 at 9:50
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I do not think I will be able to stand against this alarming tolerance for dishonesty any longer.

I think what you are saying is that you are feeling yourself starting to give way and succumb to participating in the cheating at some level.

Here's why I think you should continue to resist the temptation.

  • I doubt you need to cheat.

  • Cheating would corrupt you and change you into a different person.

7

Sounds like extreme case and very difficult situation. Assuming the situation is in India based on link in OP's post.

To answer your specific questions:

Can I do anything at all to change the status quo? How should I go about collecting facts around this and document my findings as something concrete that will likely create an impact?

I would advise to save yourself a lot of time and frustration and not challenge the established system. I agree with previous posters who also advised against this. If the system is complicit and the practice exists in spite of widespread awareness of it, then you are facing an uphill battle that should not be where you need to invest your time as a student.

An exception might be a situation that nobody (or only a few accomplices) is aware of, in which case whistle-blowing might yield results with minimum adverse impact for you. As it stands, even if you step forward, you will likely face retribution and will lose more than you will gain, except a clear conscience.

Instead, I would suggest to speak up through your own example and action: take whatever knowledge you've learned with you and move to another place where you can enter a more reputable institution. Once you are safely established in another university, write an (anonymous) but public, open letter to the administration of the "problem" university outlining your reasons for leaving in relation to the cheating practice.

To make it count, you might consider publishing your letter as an anonymous (under a pseudonym) letter to the editor of a more progressive local newspaper in the city where this university is located, in print and/or online (especially online, where it cannot be forgotten the next day). Public shaming can be a powerful weapon, especially in the East/Southeast Asian cultures...

What you are describing does indeed sound like a waste of your time in a formal education environment.

Therefore, I'd say to cut your losses while you still have time, enroll in a better school (transfer credits from this school if you can) and finish your degree there.

In the end, this is about principles, and what your education and future is worth to you. It is easiest to think short-term: "hey, others are still studying here and seem to be graduating and getting OK jobs, why should I be different?" Such short-term thinking might give temporary comfort.

But the long term cost of such near-sightedness will be high: foregone opportunities, low reputation of your degree, limited job prospects, and a different self-image and identity as a result. To me these factors seem important enough to seriously evaluate other options.

Even if a better choice may be more difficult in the short term (finding/moving to another area and enrolling in another institution), the long-term wisdom of such a decision is not to be underestimated. It will pay dividends with better education, better career prospects, and a brighter future. You will thank yourself for it soon enough. Good luck!

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    From the link in OP's post, it looks like this is in India. I would have to agree with the suggestion to transfer. However, from some past posts (here and elsewhere), the academic dishonesty does not seem to be all that uncommon, so I am not sure how much of a difference a transfer will make. – Mewa May 19 '15 at 18:50
  • Those last 3 paragraphs. – Jack Bauer May 19 '15 at 18:56
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There really isn't much that you can do to change the system, especially if it actively turns a blind eye to the issue. If that is the trend at your university over a significant number of past generations, the credibility of the university might already be damaged. That can hurt you chances with employers. If this trend is relatively new, the bad reputation will come, albeit hopefully well after you graduate.

You can do something how you tackle your education. You should try to learn more than you're required to pass the exams. Browse other programs' curricula and see what the differences are and then try to fill those gaps. Find internships to get practical experience. In other words, try to acquire much more expertise than your peers. Although a university's reputation goes a long way as a recommendation, in the end it is your skill level that defines your worth.

  • I have talked with various alumni and this trend is old enough. The university does not have any credibility left if I am to judge from the quality of employers it attracts. This makes me consider dropping out from time to time. If it will be only about my skills in the end, why pay tuition? – Volis May 15 '15 at 9:42
  • @Volis "transfers do not exist at my University — Then submit a fresh application to somewhere else. — It ranks among the best colleges in the state. — Move to a different state. – JeffE May 16 at 17:56" – Jack Bauer May 19 '15 at 18:54

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