ISLAMABAD: Curbing plagiarism at educational institutions seems like a herculean task at present, as evidenced by the 54 plagiarism cases under review with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) from 30 universities, including the top-ranked Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU).
According to the data shared by HEC with Pakistan Today, a total of 54 plagiarism cases are under review right now, with University of Karachi topping the list with six cases. The data shows that plagiarism cases are not confined to any one university or specific area. Reports of the “crime” have come in from different universities across the country.
A plagiarist is defined as a kind of thief – “one who steals the thoughts or writings of others and gives them out as his own” – according to the Chambers Dictionary.
According to the breakdown of plagiarism cases in different universities, University of Karachi tops the list with 6 cases followed by Islamia College University Peshawar, University of Sindh Jamshoro, Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam; University of the Punjab Lahore and Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) Jamshoro with 3 cases each.
The data also reveals the incidence of two cases each at the University of Engineering and Technology Lahore, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Islamabad, Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST) Karachi, Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Medical University (SBBMU) Larkana, National University of Modern Languages (NUML) Islamabad, Abdul Wali Khan University (AWK) Mardan, QAU Islamabad and Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) Multan.
One case each of plagiarism has been reported in Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) Islamabad, University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Muzzafarabad, Mohiuddin Islamic University Islamabad, Government College University (GCU) Lahore, Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) Lahore, University of Sargodha, International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) Islamabad, Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University (SBKWU) Quetta, Hamdard University Karachi, Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology Karachi, Muhammad Nawaz Shareef University of Agriculture (MNS) Multan, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) Karachi, Islamia University Bahawalpur and University of Science and Technology Bannu.
The data disclosed that a total of 171 cases have been disposed of by HEC of which 65 were not proved.
According to HEC’s policy, there are three types of punishment for plagiarism – major, moderate and minor. Universities are required to award the appropriate penalty as per the recommendations of the relevant university’s plagiarism standing committee.
HEC Director Media Ayesha Ikram told Pakistan Today that universities in most of the cases have taken appropriate actions against violators in the light of plagiarism policy.
In case, universities did not act according to the policy in plagiarism cases, they would be blacklisted by HEC and their benefits would be withdrawn including project funds, travel grants, HEC-approved supervision, membership in committees etc.
Hurdles faced by the HEC include instances of anonymous complaints which cannot be processed under legal conditions, excuses such as that the accused did not benefit from the plagiarism or forgot to cite the material. Moreover, there is a trend to exonerated the accused, even though a case of plagiarism is present, HEC’s documents reveal. Universities often fail to take action against discovered plagiarism cases and turn a blind eye to reported incidents.
Documents also reveal that the HEC Plagiarism Standing Committee determines and suggests penalties for plagiarism, but universities continue to ignore HEC findings and plagiarists continue to enjoy benefits from the university.
The university syndicates and boards of governors often rule to exonerate such persons as have a large number of publications in their names. Papers in which such authors have plagiarised are simply excluded from being published, Ayesha Ikram said.
She said further that HEC was reviewing its plagiarism policy to further clarify the process of investigation and penalties.
Finally, she said, HEC is aware that the plagiarism policy may be used by people to victimise others. “Therefore, we try our best to ensure that merit and transparency are the only considerations while applying the plagiarism policy”, Ayesha remarked.