The past few months have seen a multitude of revelations of cheating, academic dishonesty and sliding academic standards within Australian universities.
Commentary on these issues has, so far, focused on means of detecting and preventing fraud. Suggestions include revisions of the way we conduct assessments, or removing essays as tests of critical thinking. However, these measures treat the symptoms, not the cause.
The cause of academic dishonesty and other entrenched problems is the commodification of education, which has been increasing in recent years. Universities themselves must take substantial blame for this. By thinking of students as customers, we have turned education into a consumer good.
In the face of continuing cuts to funding, the search for new revenue streams has had serious consequences for our integrity. A number of worrying trends have emerged as a result of a shift in the way students view higher education. Because students now “buy” their education, their attitudes to university study have fundamentally changed. Continue reading