Copying their way to secure admissions abroad has proved futile for a few Indian applicants. Recently, a US-based business school, The Smeal College of Business at Penn State University found out 18 cases of plagiarism by applicants, of which 10 were Indian.
According to a popular MBA website (www.pagalguy.com), the Indian applicants had plagiarised their admission essays. Plagiarism is a daunting task to deal with, admit B-schools that follow a similar admission format.
Like international B-schools, Indian institutions too conduct elaborate admission tests and group discussions. In some cases, essay writing forms a component or applicants have to submit statements of purpose (SOP). When cases of plagiarism are suspected or confirmed, most B-schools reject applicants at the admission stage. “Last year, we had a couple apply to our institution. Both had submitted similar SOPs. We rejected their applications because they used an unethical route to gaining admission,” said Prof Pankaj Gupta, director, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Bangalore (SIBM).
Many institutions have formulated rules to root out plagiarism during admissions. “We have a rigorous application process which exposes students who falsify documentation. We often detect fraudulent statements of purpose due to inconsistencies in applications or at the interview stage,” Michelle Stewart, head of the department, international and graduate office, University of Strathclyde, UK.
Recently, the University of Cambridge admissions’ panel had admitted that not much attention is paid to personal statements of applicants because of the likelihood of students using external sources to prepare these.
Plagiarism has become a major problem in academia, say experts. “It is not limited to the admission process. We get to see instances of this during the MBA programme as well. Some students do a copy-paste job of their assignments and take passages from the internet. Such projects are given a zero right away,” said BV Krishnamurthy, director, Alliance Business School.
“Indian students believe they can submit plagiarised essays or assignments and plead ignorance when confronted by professors. We tell them during the orientation that when projects are submitted, they should cite sources or give references where it is due,” said Ravneet Pahwa, country director, Deakin University (India).
Institutes are attempting to ingrain the need for academic integrity in students. “We tell students that if they don’t have academic integrity, it will spill over to their professional life and have terrible consequences. We prefer it if students submit half a page instead of 20 pages of content downloaded from some website,” Krishnamurthy added.
According to GK Prabhu, registrar at the Manipal University, students often joke about plagiarism referring to it as “cutting-edge technology.” “Students need to know that there is software which detects plagiarism using keywords. Teachers are instructed to check project submissions to see if students are doing copy-paste jobs,” he added.