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Decolonising the Discourse on Academic Integrity: A Data Driven Activism Against Implicit Association of International Students with Academic Dishonesty

Harte, Patrick; Khaleel, Fawad; Avdukic, Alija


Alija Avdukic


When you attend any conference, workshop or gathering on upholding academic integrity in HE and ways of reducing academic dishonesty, you will find that there is always a session that focuses on academic misconduct within the international cohort. If you survey the academic literature in L&T, then you will also find a recurrent and inexorable thematic linkage that argues that “international students are at least “twice as likely as domestic students”” (Tran, 2012; Bretag, 2013; Gunnarsson et al. 2014; Fatemi and Saito 2020) to perform ‘acts of misconduct’. International students often from formerly colonised countries and carry an identity, follow a culture and speak a language dissimilar to Europe and North America. This linkage between international student and academic dishonesty is grounded in the colonial thinking in subjugating morality of the colonised cultures and ‘an insurrection of subjugated knowledges’ (Foucault 1980). It develops on the ostensive colonial assumption that cultures foreign to ours have natural tendencies towards dishonesty due to lack of rectitude and absence of integrity.

The literature on decolonisation of HE suggests that such constructs are the result of implicit assumptions and attitudes which escape conscious reflection and are “based on unconscious set of habitual patterns of thoughts” (Hall et al., 2023; Unsal, S. 2006). When we examine the methodological construct of the literature that establishes the linkage, we observe that their conclusions are based on either a narrative built through the lived experiences of academics or through interviews or focus groups. It could be argued that while these studies do demonstrate the implicit biased attitude towards the integrity of international students, they do not observe or examine the objective reality. Currie (1998) and Doss et al 2016 argue that the even an unintended breach of academic integrity among international students is perceived as a serious case of intellectual thievery (Maurer, Kappe, & Zaka, 2006) and “transgressing of Western customs among academic settings”.

Our study examined a sample of 23,951 student submissions, out of which 1405 cases engaged in academic misconduct. We used multinomial logit model and examined multiple variables in our analysis. Our results show that while there is a relationship between academic dishonesty and factors like word count, subject area, class size and type of assessment, there is no statistically significant probability that an international or TNE student is more likely to cheat, as compared to domestic students.

The difference in findings of our data driven study and the majority of literature on this topic is due to our categorial differentiation on different types of academic dishonesty. We divided the breach of academic conduct into three categories: negligence with no intention to cheat, malpractice with intention to mislead, and misconduct that signifies serious or repetitive breaches of academic integrity. Our findings suggest that the majority of international student that breach academic integrity fall under negligence with no intention to cheat. This type of breach can be addressed with appropriate training, and it does not warrant the vilification of international students within the literature.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Abolishing the University & Borders in Higher Education
Start Date Oct 12, 2023
End Date Oct 12, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 5, 2023
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