Why Students Cheat and How Understanding This Can Help Reduce the Frequency of Academic Misconduct in Higher Education: A Literature Review

Paula J. Miles, Martin Campbell, and Graeme D. Ruxton



Academic integrity is fundamental to effective education and learning yet cheating continues to occur in diverse forms within the higher education sector.  It is essential that students are educated about, and understand the importance of, good academic practice.  Strict standards of academic integrity help to ensure that knowledge is acquired in an honest and ethical manner, creating fairness and equity for students, ultimately enriching the student experience at university and the wider society’s trust in the value of university education.  This literature review synthesizes the many varied reasons why students cheat, as presented in a large body of existing literature.  We then turn our attention to what we can do as educators to help reduce the rates of academic misconduct.  Factors influencing the propensity of students to cheat are diverse but relatively well understood.  Whilst policing and applying appropriate punishments should be part of institutional responses to academic misconduct, it is clear that this is only part of the solution.  We emphasize the need for a much broader range of proactive activities to be brought to bear.  Many of these are educational in nature and should have benefits for students, staff and institutions beyond discouraging academic misconduct.  Resource implication should not be a barrier to their implementation.