Home » General » MESTI BACA “Club of Doom – Academic Dishonesty : After SIX Years, Has The Situation Improved?”

MESTI BACA “Club of Doom – Academic Dishonesty : After SIX Years, Has The Situation Improved?”

OSTB : Here is an article about academic dishonesty in Malaysia that appeared SIX YEARS ago in 2015. I  received it this morning. This was written by Murray Hunter. After reading it, I am wondering how much has changed over the past SIX YEARS. Have things got better or have they got worse? 

Originally published in the Asian Correspondent 20th December 2015


One of the more destructive traits of Malaysia society today is academic dishonesty. It runs throughout many facets of society. Academic dishonesty is not just an education issue, it’s also prevalent within the civil service, business, and even political walks of life within society.

A few high-profile cases of academic dishonesty have arisen over the last few years. Two Federal deputy Ministers, Ri____d R__t (H___n Resources) and Dr E__n E__n (S____ce) were found to have fake degrees a couple of years ago. 

An executive director of a private college of higher education affiliated with a UK university, and pop star F____y Y____b was found to hold two fake degrees, and two public company directors were also found to have fake degrees.

Many prominent figures in Malaysian society have bought ‘bogus degrees’ from unaccredited universities to enhance their qualifications and CVs.

There are also cases of Malaysians trying to use fake degrees to get work overseas in countries like New Zealand.

However, this lack of academic integrity is not limited to acquiring fake degrees.

A prominent academic has developed a collection of awards that could be considered dubious. Awards such as the Socrates Award in Education, Best Manager Award,  and ‘The Name in Science’ awarded by “a designer award mill” called the Europe Business Assembly (EBA), purportedly located in Oxford, UK, appear to grant awards on application and payment, rather than being scrutinized by any international panel. Other such dubious awards include the “Merit of Commandeur” conferred by an organization called the Belgian Chamber of Inventors (BCI), of which any trace cannot be found through internet searches. This is not the first time such awards have been previously controversial in Malaysia and the region.

There have been numerous issues in regards to plagiarism.

Back in 2013, an U____n Malaysia writer R_____n T__ was accused of plagiarism by a Universiti Teknologi Malaysia lecturer Dr A__l Y_____n Mohd. Y____n. Although the matter was never resolved, R_____n T__ was appointed an associate professor at Universiti P_________n N______l Malaysia (N______l D_____e University).

Plagiarism in the copying of internet, book, and article material for publications is wide spread within Malaysia, although, very few reports ever rise to the public domain.

A_____e L__ Z___ E__, a Malaysian writer was caught plagiarizing Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soil IV in her first book .., where her book was withdrawn from the market and destroyed. An editor working for the New S____s Times, B_____n P_____a was dismissed because of plagiarizing the work of US journalist M___h A___m. Last year, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama suspended a journalist for plagiarizing an article from the Jakarta Post.

Plagiarism is not just confined to books. Australian Masterchef finalist A___n Q__h was accused of plagiarism by Rasa Malaysia’s B__ Y__ L__ from the Asian food blog R___ Malaysia.

With the level of academic dishonesty in general society, it’s not surprising that there is a lack of academic integrity within Malaysian institutions of higher education.

However what is surprising is the extent of it, particularly among students according to a recent survey.

These practices are not just restricted to students.

A startling but not well publicized piece of research on student academic dishonesty  in Malaysia showed academic dishonesty is rampant. It was revealed that students well understand what university policies are towards plagiarism and cheating are. Yet due to peer pressure and the feeling of security of collective culture, large percentages of students partake in cheating in one or another form.

The study went on to state that 95.7% of students had partaken in some form of plagiarism, 96% had shared an assignment with other students, 93% had cheated during tests, 92% had falsified data, 86% had cheated in exams, and 90% had copied a friends assignment.

Due to the sheer number of students at Malaysian universities today, it is almost impossible to use tools like ‘turnitin’ to check all students work for plagiarism.

  • In addition universities are worried about their reputations if pass rates are poor, and often put extreme pressure on lecturers to pass students. 
  • Failing a student in some faculties within a Malaysian university would just lead to a long serious of meetings and extra work to reassess and pass someone them, many lecturers have told the writer.

Unfortunately, some staff at Malaysian universities are not good role models to students. In one of the few cases that came to public attention was two Universiti P____ Malaysia  lecturers who were caught plagiarizing materials from the internet to produce an effective writing handbook. The action taken against the authors was only a reprimand. 

A similar case involving a deputy vice chancellor of another university was ‘pushed under the rug’. However the IEEE banned any papers from the academic in any of their journals for 10 years.

Some lecturers use undergraduate student assignments as the basis of papers they publish in academic journals. This accounts for the large number of papers some lecturers are able to produce each year. Student names are rarely added as authors to the lecturer’s submissions to journals.

A number of deans and high office bearers within Malaysian universities specifically hire staff from countries like Bangladesh to be a ghost writer for them. These staff members have no other duties other than to produce papers and even books for their employers. This is in addition to lecturers also putting their superiors name on their papers to carry favour. Some staff members have also been known to employ a ghost writer to research and write their PhD thesis.

Plagiarism is extremely high among lecturers and professors within Malaysian universities, and only occasionally will any academic come out and publically talk about what is going on.

With the push over the last few years for Malaysian universities to rise in the world rankings, publishing has become a very important issue for academics. Universities have put a lot of funds into improving their volume of articles published in academic journals.

Many methods are being used to get articles published and gain citations for their work. Many Malaysian academics are using the ‘checkbook’ to just pay for publication. A number of academic journals are now springing up using a ‘pay to publish’ approach, rather than the ‘double blind referee’ approach, traditional to academic publishing in the past. Lecturers also give papers at conferences where proceedings are published in journals after the conference.

If one goes to Google Scholar and checks the publication citations of some of the new universities, it will become very evident that many academics are gaining large numbers of citations for their work within very short periods of time. This has been particularly the case over the last three to four years. High numbers of citations are being generated through the sheer volume of papers where lecturers cite their own work, and make agreements with other lecturers to cross-cite each other’s work.

Many other dishonest activities are going on within Malaysian universities include;

·       The falsifying of student appraisal surveys to eliminate criticism of teaching,

·       The ‘cut and paste’ of curriculum from other universities when developing new courses,

·       Some foreign students who fail just purchase a locally produced fake degree before returning home. Some even go to the convocation and take photos with their friends on graduation day,

·       There are still faculty members with dubious degrees and qualifications within Malaysian universities today. As of today, there are still no laws against this practice, and

·       Unfortunately some international universities are cashing in on the Malaysian Ministry of Education’s quest to improve qualifications among public university lecturers. Many Malaysian lecturers are sent to overseas universities which guarantee a pass to gain their PhD.

There is currently a very low state of academic integrity within Malaysian universities today. However universities are only a microcosm of the general society around them. Fraudulent academic practices and dishonesty is almost an acceptable behaviour today in Malaysia, as the national and institutional leaders have done very little to highlight the seriousness of these offences.

Academically dishonest people are leniently dealt with in Malaysia, which has given today’s younger generation ‘skewed ideas’ about morality and ethics. Academic dishonesty is a destructive modus operandi which is running freely in Malaysia today.

The prevalence of academic dishonesty shows that moral and ethical standards are slipping in Malaysia, where a whole new generation is being told that it’s OK to steal the creative work and ideas of others. There is a very high tolerance in Malaysian society for fraud, cheating and mediocrity.

This also partly explains why the prime minister of Malaysia Abdul Najib Razak can survive the current 1MDB scandal. Malaysians have become ‘seasoned’ to deceit, lies, and corruption.

Malaysia is now a country where some ministers don’t know their own portfolios, students don’t know their career disciplines, and university professors who just don’t know their fields.

This is costing Malaysian society greatly. Mediocrity rather than meritocracy is favoured, which will affect Malaysia’s human capital competitiveness in the coming years.

This is a problem that is coming from the top of Malaysia’s institutions, where reform is desperately needed.

Originally published in the Asian Correspondent 20th December 2015.


My concern is this. This is Malaysia. In Malaysia everything is race, race and more race. And also religion, religion and more religion. In fact I can restate what I just wrote with the names of just one race and one religion. And you know what race and which religion that would be.

So when discussing problems like this we need racial breakdowns. Just what proportion of dishonest academics, dishonest students at the universities are Malays, Chinese, Indians etc? 

Does this academic dishonest happen at Government universities or at private universities? If private universities are they owned and run by Malays, Chinese, Indians etc?

In Malaysia everything is race, race and more race.

The reason why the problems in this country never get solved (for example academic dishonesty was already pandemic SIX YEARS ago) is that too many of our problems are race based. And we do not design solutions that address specific weaknesses identifiable with race. 

Instead we just implement policies and programs without wanting to stop and think whether the policies and programs will work among all people.

Let me give you some examples. 

Until today the largely peaceful and gentle Orang Asli people do not have a concept of a 24 hour day. Or a seven day week. They do not understand what are ’24 hours’. Or why ‘Sunday to Saturday’. They do not understand what it means to say ‘one hour has 60 minutes’. Their concept of time is not the same as you and me.   You can tell an Orang Asli ‘Can you bring those things here tomorrow at 3PM?’ but it will make little sense to him. (And I have been to Orang Asli villages where  the young folks wear watches – to look cool.)

So telling the Orang Asli that they must send their kids to school at 7.30 am in the morning is just not going to work. What exactly is “7.30 am” ?  

So you must pay attention to his race – because each race has its own issues that need to be dealt with separately.

Similarly before the 1960s the literacy levels among Malays were very low. In my generation (born in the early 1960s) many of my Malay peers were first generation literate. Meaning their parents did not know how to read and write. 

Not only that but there was little literary heritage among the Malays.  Especially in comparison to the Chinese and Indians who have a very robust and very old literary tradition that goes back 5,000 years or more.

What does this mean? It means that since hundreds of years ago the Indians in Malaya (for example) could write down their business transactions, they could write down business partnership contracts, they could make written orders for imported goods, they could do what was known in Tamil (another example) as ‘writing up the trade’ which allowed Tamil businessmen to sell, franchise and open branches of their businesses in Malaya.

Here is something in Tamil from 1938 :

I believe the Chinese in Malaya also came with an advanced system of writing transactions.  One outstanding example is the simple Chinese ‘chop’ or seal. 

And these writing traditions have created huge social changes among people who have a writing tradition. The most important of which is the respect and regard for the written word.  

For example that simple Chinese chop or seal that you see in the picture above appears so simple. It is simple. But that simple chop will carry with it the reputation, integrity and trustworthiness of a person, of a clan or of a business organisation which affixes that chop on a piece of paper.  Which means there is also respect and regard for written documents.   When they place that chop on a piece of paper it means they stand behind what they say. That is the generally accepted principle. 

So the Chinese and Indians have found these habits to be useful for them for quite some time. But it takes time for these “norms” to evolve.

You cannot simply give an Orang Asli a watch and tell him, ‘Send your child to school tomorrow at 7.30 am’. It will not work.

Neither can you expect relatively newly introduced concepts like academic integrity, academic research and the entite academic method to take off like a rocket in a society where even universal literacy is still a new phenomenon. It is going to take time.

We have to focus urgently on the basic building blocks of a good society. What is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad, what will work, what will not work, what happens if you do this, what happens if you do not do that, why do you say this, why do we believe that, what evidence do you have, what is the repercussion of doing this, what is the effect of doing that – all the basics. 

We do not have this in sufficient quantity in our masyarakat. I agree with Murray Hunter’s observation that :

There is a very high tolerance in Malaysian society for fraud, cheating and mediocrity.

But Murray Hunter misses a major point. In Malaysia it is not yet seen as fraud, cheating or mediocrity.  They have not yet fully understood these concepts. 

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