Record number of Swedish university students caught cheating

A record number of Swedish university students were suspended in 2016 because of cheating, according to a fresh review.

Record number of Swedish university students caught cheating
File photo: Tor Johnsson/SvD/TT
A growing number of students are being suspended from Swedish universities because they have been caught cheating.
In its review of 33 universities in Sweden, TT newswire found 733 students had been suspended due to cheating in 2016. 
The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslerämbetet, UKÄ) previously kept its own, annual records of suspensions of higher-education students, but stopped doing so last year.
UKÄ Legal Advisor Pontus Kyrk reacted with surprise to TT's findings.
“Was is that many? That's a new record, or whatever we should call it,” he told TT.
“That means there has been an increase, a fairly sharp increase,” he added.
2016 saw 103 more cases of suspension than in 2015, a 16 percent increase – and the figure is growing for the third year running. Compared to 2013, which saw 533 suspensions, the figure has increased by 37.5 percent.
Kyrk thinks the increase is mainly due to increased awareness, and that universities have got better at catching cheaters.
“They have a much better view of the situation than previously. They're way more attentive when it comes to plagiarism,” Kyrk said.
The highest number of suspensions per 1000 students (7.3) were carried out by Södertörn University, closely followed by the Blekinge Institute of Technology (7.0) and University West (6.9).
“We file reports as soon as there's a suspicion,” said Jenny Tirén Berg, press spokesperson at Södertörn University.
“We're very strict. For instance, it's not up to the tutor to speak to the student – if there's a suspicion of cheating, it's reported and investigated,” she added.
A recurring question, which is difficult to answer, is whether a high number of suspensions is due to extensive cheating, or the result of a persistent hunt for cheaters.
According to the same logic, it is difficult to know if few suspensions means a university has few cheaters, or if it is simply bad at catching them.
The Stockholm School of Economics and Halmstad University only suspended one person each in 2016. For Halmstad, that is a drastic decrease, from having suspended between 16 and 20 students per year between 2012 and 2014.
Brita Lund, head of student administration at Halmstad University, said the improved figures were partly to do with there being less cheating, and partly with the university communicating more clearly to its students than previously about what consistutes cheating and plagiarism.


Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year

It is looking increasingly unlikely that 'högskoleprovet' – an exam used by thousands of students every year as a way to enter Swedish university will go ahead – despite a government U-turn.

Swedish university exam unlikely to go ahead at all this year
In a normal year, 100,000 students sit what is known as the SweSAT or 'högskoleprovet'. Photo: Malin Hoelstad/SvD/SCANPIX

The Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (SweSAT, or högskoleprovet) is normally held twice a year, but was cancelled in spring and then later in autumn due to the coronavirus pandemic. But after pressure from opposition parties, the government last week said it would pave the way for the test to take place on its usual date in October in a limited format, open only to people who had not previously sat it.

Usually around 100,000 people sit the exam each year, around 40 percent of them doing so for the first time. The exam is not compulsory, but many people use its results to get into university, and it is seen as a crucial second chance for those who are not able to get accepted based on grades alone.

But any hope lit by the government's announcement last week was quickly extinguished this week, when university principals said it would still not be possible to organise a coronavirus-safe sitting. In the end it is up to the exam organisers to decide whether or not to hold it, so the government holds limited sway.

“They [the university principals] do not want to take responsibility for conducting the exam during the autumn, but would rather spend time and resources on conducting two tests as safely as possible in spring,” Karin Röding, director-general of the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR), told the TT news agency on Tuesday.

“I have no reason to have another opinion,” she added.

“It appears to be the case that you are going to have to wait another few months before an exam can be carried out in an infection-safe way,” confirmed Sweden's Minister of Higher Education, Matilda Ernkrans.

Meanwhile the political pressure eased on the Social Democrat-Green coalition government to ensure the test could be held before the deadline for applying to the spring semester of university, when the Liberal party joined the centre-left in voting no to pushing for an autumn sitting. Last week there was a majority for a yes vote on the Swedish parliament's education committee, consisting of right-wing parties Moderates, Christian Democrats, Sweden Democrats and the Liberals, but after the latter switched sides the committee voted no.

The Mdoerates blamed the government for not acting sooner to help the exam go ahead, by for example allocating more money and investigating the possibility of using more venues.

“There is one person who is to blame. That's Matilda Ernkrans,” said the party's education spokesperson Kristina Axén Olin. “The government has handled it really poorly and now it is thought to be too late and impossible.”

Ernkrans argued that she and the government had done everything they could, including making sure that test results from previous years will be valid for eight years rather than the usual five, as well as allocating extra funding to make it possible to hold more than one exam next spring.

Swedish vocabulary

cancel – ställa in

test/exam – (ett) prov

second chance – (en) andra chans

government – (en) regering

semester – (en) termin (note the false friend – the Swedish word semester means holiday)