On-line version ISSN 0023-270X
VAN ZYL, André and THOMAS, Adele. Academic honesty: Perceptions of millennial university students and the role of moderating variables. Koers (Online) [online]. 2015, vol.80, n.1, pp. 1-15. ISSN 0023-270X. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/KOERS.V80I1.2210.
Student academic dishonesty is increasing locally and internationally and universities are devising strategies to address this problem. The first year of academic study lays the foundation for future years of study and, as such, is critical in the establishment of adherence to academic values. As part of a larger project, the perceptions about academic honesty of first-year students belonging to the millennial generation at a large South African public university were obtained with a view to identifying trends in perceptions between the 2011 and 2012 student cohorts as well as the relationship between student sub-groups and perceptions held about academic honesty. The present study also sought to validate the findings of the 2011 study. The population comprised all 22 442 students entering the University for the first time during the 2011 and 2012 academic years. Combined Strategy Sampling, followed by cluster sampling was used to obtain a sample of 5 730 students (3 611 in 2011 and 2 119 in 2012), broadly representative of the institutional population. In this regard, the 2011 sample of Thomas and van Zyl (2012) (3 611 students) was combined with the sample of the present study (2 119). A questionnaire, developed from the literature, comprising 12 ethical statements was used as the survey instrument. The data for the 2012 student sample was compared to that obtained from the Thomas and van Zyl (2011) sample and, by means of Chi-square tests and Standardised Residuals, the statistical association between perceptions held by members of student sub-groups and perceptions about academic honesty was investigated. The sample of both years of first-year students indicated a trend in perceptions and one that pointed to an understanding of the meaning of academic dishonesty yet a regard for it as a relative concept and one that is superseded by, for example, the belief that right and wrong is a matter of personal opinion, that ideas do not belong to anyone and that information is accessible and free. This implies that these students enter academia with perceptions about academic honesty that may differ to those founded on the value authenticity in academia. Differences in opinion were found amongst students of different language groups and the qualification for which they were registered. It is recommended that the values of academia should be reinforced with this student group and that broad pedagogic approaches, whilst reinforcing these values, should be tailored and differentiated according to the specific nature of each faculty and with particular sensitivity to the writing needs of students who belong to different language groups.