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Academic Integrity Core to University’s Success

Academic Integrity Core to University’s Success
One of Romania’s top research institutions, West University of Timisoara (WUT), is leading a movement toward greater transparency and academic integrity across its campus and within Romania’s broader research and higher education communities. What started as a few isolated attempts to reduce plagiarism has evolved into a university- wide commitment to teach students the value of academic integrity and how to uphold it. Partially due to Viorel Negru, PhD, professor and Senate President, who recently won a Global Innovation Award from Turnitin for his approach to teaching students how to gather, use, and share information responsibly.


Background

West University of Timisoara, founded in 1944, is one of the biggest public universities in the western part of Romania, providing a comprehensive selection of undergraduate degrees and opportunities for research and postgraduate pursuits to more than 15,000 students. Among its many accomplished alumni is poet and author Herta Muller, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. WUT is one of the top ranked universities in the country, partially due to its research, which often receives top placement in academic journals. This year it was ranked among the top 600-800 universities in the world and the 59th among top universities emerging in Europe and Asia[i].

The University’s charter to advance scientific research and education, and its sharpened focus on ethics, aligns well with the residents of Timisoara who pride themselves on the city’s multicultural, open-minded progressiveness. Recently, Timisoara was designated European Capital of Culture in 2021. Timisoara is a vibrant cultural crossroads that attracts many international scholars, which helps to support the city’s relatively healthy job market. Professor Negru says that at the end of the day, they want their students to be, not only specialists, but also well-rounded, principled employees and citizens.

Challenges

Plagiarism has been cited for years as a widespread problem in Romanian schools, universities, and communities, even at the highest political levels, where corruption routinely makes headlines. West University of Timisoara adopted Turnitin Feedback Studio campus-wide as a tool to prevent and combat this issue. Officials have embraced the idea that by taking a lead in teaching academic integrity, they will have a better opportunity to improve student learning and the University’s reputation, which will attract top students and continue to advance its rankings.

Solution

After seeing how successfully professors like Negru were using Turnitin Feedback Studio in their classrooms, the university leaders decided to expand the service so that all tutors and students have access. They also made it mandatory that students use the service to check their final thesis for originality before submission. Negru thought there might be student push-back, but the university had their full support, because students know how helpful it is. They research and write a paper, then submit it online using Turnitin Feedback Studio, which returns a report showing exactly where content matches licensed content archived in Turnitin’s academic comparison database, the world’s largest of its kind. It’s up to the student and instructor to determine if the match warrants rewriting or better citation. Negru says plagiarism is not always intentional. Sometimes students may inappropriately use the referencing method, which may result in a higher similarity rate.

Results

Since embedding the practice of checking for originality into the University’s policies and expectations, Negru says they’ve been able to reduce two thirds of plagiarism incidents. By making the editing and revision process more transparent, quicker, and easier, everyone at the University benefits. The students are better able to defend their work with confidence; professors save time grading papers; and the University is setting an example of integrity for the rest of the academic and broader community. “It’s not about policing,” says Negru. “It’s about managing the quality of work and respecting the work of others.” Those are values they hope their graduates will take with them to their future employers.

[Negru_1:MEDIASTORE_LEAF]@10d21b90
It’s not about policing. It’s about managing the quality of work and respecting the work of others.
Viorel Negru
Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Universitatea de Vest Timişoara
Timișoara, Romania