On the topic of plagiarism, a conference was organised on 6 November by the RSM examination board together with educational and research institute Risbo. The main goal: to kick off a debate.

It is difficult to overstate how serious an offence plagiarism is. Yet, among the invited, RSM teachers, staff, examination board members and Risbo consultants, opinions differed over what plagiarism exactly is. The dictionary has a broad definition: “the unauthorised use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work”.  

During the conference a number of things came to light. Firstly, high schools can do better. They appear to encourage pupils to use content found on the internet in their assignments without being taught what constitutes plagiarism. Once at university, students have to unlearn their copy-paste habit. Also, different customs apply in different countries. Italian students apparently like to copy much of their professors’ work into their own papers to honour their professors, which here would border plagiarism and limits students in their own development. RSM has its share of international students and teachers have to be aware of different interpretations.

In addition, during the year-one academic skills courses, plagiarism and how to avoid it should perhaps be explained better to students. Guest speaker Tomas Oudejans of Tilburg University said that the quality of papers, especially in terms of originality, has improved since an anti-plagiarism system was introduced at his law faculty.

The introduction of the Safe Assignment tool in Blackboard has probably lead to a drop in students being caught, but RSM wants to take a more pro-active approach regarding plagiarism. Prof. Dr Ing. Teun Hardjono explains that there is a lot of static on the airwaves regarding plagiarism, which means that it happens. However, it is difficult to act as teachers and the examination board have little to go on. Yet, despite the complex nature of the offence, it is clear that plagiarism is on the agenda at RSM. KL