Indian students get an A-plus for plagiarism

In this week's LONDON DIARY: Bookshops, plagiarism in academics, inclusivity & diversity

Representative image shows 3 people in uniform: one screwing in a lightbulb and 2 removing a bulb from a box against a backdrop of the London skyline (image: National Herald)
Representative image shows 3 people in uniform: one screwing in a lightbulb and 2 removing a bulb from a box against a backdrop of the London skyline (image: National Herald)

Hasan Suroor

Plagiarism is on the rise in British universities, with international students leading the trend. And guess what? India figures among the most ‘prolific countries of origin for plagiarism’, according to a study. Other ‘prolifics’ include China, Nigeria, Romania and China.

The number of pupils caught plagiarising in their admission applications has doubled in the past two years.

Applicants to British universities are required to submit a personal statement setting out their background, goals and how they hope to benefit from a degree, etc. The quality of a personal statement can make or mar an applicant’s prospects. Hence the temptation to seek help—even if it means stealing someone else’s work.

In particular, there has been a 15 per cent rise in plagiarism since ChatGPT, the generative artificial intelligence programme, was launched. But experts say the trend started long before ChatGPT came on the scene.

Some attribute it to the intense pressure on candidates to succeed. Cultural attitudes are also said to be responsible, especially in the case of Indian students.

Indian universities don’t require personal statements. There is also a more relaxed attitude towards borrowing from someone else’s work.

Two years ago, an Indian student at a top American university was rusticated after he was found to have lifted a whole paragraph from former US president Abraham Lincoln’s speech which he tried to pass it off as his own!

“The problem is that in India, copying content is a common practice and many students do it as an accepted norm,” Indian-origin educational expert Adarsh Khandelwal had said at the time.

True? Or false?

Indian universities also most prolific

In a sign of Indian academia’s growing professional confidence, India has submitted more universities for assessment in the Times Higher Education’s forthcoming ‘Impact Rankings 2024’ than any other country in the world.

A record 105 Indian universities have put themselves forward for scrutiny, representing a 46 per cent increase over last year, when only 72 universities from India had applied.

Turkey comes second, with 100 entries and Pakistan is third with 96. Intriguingly, Japan is fourth with 88 universities.

The ranking is claimed to be the world’s ‘only one’ that measures universities’ contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and assesses their commitment to sustainability across four broad areas: research, stewardship, outreach and teaching. In a statement, Times Higher Education referred to India’s emphasis on ‘the importance of the sustainable goals and the need for an action plan to achieve them’.

Bookshops are back

Amid all the bad news about the effects of a stagnant economy, independent booksellers in Britain—long in decline in the face of competition from Amazon and other online retail giants—are enjoying a welcome renaissance.

New data suggests that the Covid-19 lockdown, which forced people to remain indoors, reawakened the nation’s thirst for reading. Despite the cost of living crisis and inflation, 51 new independent bookshops opened last year, up from 49 in 2022. ‘The image of dusty shelves carrying volumes that have rarely been touched has dissipated, boosting the appetite among younger entrepreneurs for creating modern bookshops,’ wrote one critic.

The UK Booksellers Association, which represents more than 95 per cent of booksellers in the UK and Ireland, termed it a “sobering turn of events”, though. New players are entering a once-risky business.

The Times reported the case of Tom Rowley, who worked for 11 years as a journalist for the Washington Post and The Economist. In 2022, in “a moment of madness”, he decided to quit a secure, well- paid job to open a bookshop called Backstory in south London. He confessed to having bought the occasional book from Amazon in the past, but was adamant that “buying books is half the fun”.

Still, many book lovers do find bookshops their ‘havens on the high street’, their escape from stress, cautionary tales notwithstanding. “I can’t go past a bookshop without going in,” said one.

Same here.

A most inclusive ad

A job opening in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) for a new director of New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts was advertised thus:

‘The successful applicant will be chosen without regard to age, alienage, caregiver status, childbirth, citizenship status, colour, creed, disability, domestic violence victim status, ethnicity, familial status, gender and/or gender identity or expression, marital status, military status, national origin, parental status, partnership status, predisposing genetic characteristics, pregnancy, race, religion, reproductive health decision making, sex, sexual orientation, unemployment status, veteran status, or any other legally protected basis.

‘Women, racial and ethnic minorities, persons of minority sexual orientation or gender identity, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply for vacant positions at all levels.’

And, finally, a new study has found that women fall out of love faster than their men in a relationship, principally because the men are too lazy to help out with domestic chores.

It describes marriage as a ‘partnership in which the other person never folds the laundry, and eventually the woman really minds, with her love for him gradually declining by as much as 60 per cent’.

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