Senior academics at Oxford University have warned that the institute risks being tarnished because of a failure to clamp down on cheating.
Nick Bamforth and Colin Thompson, the university's proctors, who both sit on Oxford's governing council, said the small number of plagiarism cases referred to them represented just "the tip of the iceberg".
AdvertisementAnd that in some cases students' work had shown "only the barest grasp of good practice" while others had lifted entire passages from the Internet and fellow students' work and pasted them straight into their theses.
Thompson, who is tasked with policing students, spoke to Congregation, Oxford's "parliament of dons", earlier this month, and also criticised the university for being "supine" in the face of government cuts.
"We are worried that the number of plagiarism cases referred to us may only be the tip of the iceberg, because it is essential that the reputation of the degrees this university confers be jealously guarded," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
The concerns, in the academics' retirement oration, come just weeks after it emerged that universities across the country recorded more than 17,000 incidents of cheating last year - a 50 percent rise in four years.
In 2009-10, the proctors found 12 students guilty of "academic misconduct" at Oxford, up from eight the year before.
Thompson said, most of the cases of cheating at Oxford came from international students taking master's courses at the university's business school.The school has worked very hard, with some proctorial prodding, to ensure that students are fully informed of what is expected of them, but we have still had to deal with too many pieces of submitted work which are seriously plagiarised or show only the barest grasp of good practice in the citation of source material," he said.
Bamforth and Thompson have presented proposals to the university's education committee to clamp down on copying.
Bamforth explained that the official figures masked the full extent of the problem because only the most brazen instances of cheating would be reported to the proctors.
"The University takes all allegations of cheating very seriously," a university spokesman said.
"There are a number of measures in place to guard against cheating, including some use of electronic screening for plagiarism, and these procedures are constantly under review. Appropriate action will be taken against students caught cheating.
"Oxford's exam system is one of the most challenging and rigorous in the world, undertaken by students who have already met stringent criteria for admission to study at the university," he added.
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