MANAMA– During a recent discussion with his fourth-year journalism students about their class projects, Adnan Bumetea made an unpleasant discovery: Two of his students had done identical projects. “They bought the project from the same stationery store,” said Bumetea, a professor of magazine production at the University of Bahrain.
Bookstores and stationery shops near the university blatantly advertise the sale of student research papers and projects. Online university forums are also full of advertisements for such work in various disciplines and for various prices. Some research-paper peddlers even offer home delivery.
“The two students have been investigated. But this is not the only case,” said Bumetea. “We have discovered other cases in which students bought ready-made projects.”
Bumetea did not say how many cases there had been, but an informal survey of 45 students at the university found that a third of them had no problem with buying research for their classes, and a quarter said they had already done so. A few students refused to answer this reporter’s questions.
The students gave different reasons for cheating. The leading excuse was that they didn’t have enough time to finish their research for their classes. The second most common excuse was that they didn’t have enough experience in conducting research, and the professors did not lecture enough about it. The third reason students gave was that their professors did not pay much attention to their research, even when it was properly completed.
Ibrahim, a student at the University’s Faculty of Information Technology, said that “time constraints and the large number of tests and examinations, besides the large number of requested projects and research, put us under great pressure, so we resort to buying ready-made research.”
But Rawan, a student at the Faculty of Law, believes that the majority of students tend to look for easy solutions that do not require any effort. “Laziness is simply the reason,” she said.
Some students blame the professors. “Unfortunately, there are professors who do not thoroughly check the projects,” said Bumetea. “They just receive them without discussion.”
Khaldia Al-Khalifa, an assistant professor of media at the University of Bahrain, agrees with Bumetea about the responsibility of professors.
“The lack of interest shown by professors could rub off on students, who could then resort to the easiest ways to pass courses,” she said.
Ahmed Samir, a chemical-engineering graduate of the University of Bahrain, confirmed that this is not a new phenomenon, but he believes it is spreading very quickly and has become more brazen.
“I graduated seven years ago,” Samir said. “Then, there were only a few students who resorted to buying research through intermediaries and in complete secrecy. Today, everything is done publicly and without any fear.”
Bookstores charge a range of prices for university research, from $100 to more than $250 for graduate projects. Some bookstores also sell school research at a lower price, not exceeding $50.
“Our services are popular among students, and they are giving us a good profit, helping me to pay the shop’s rent,” said Mahmoud, a bookstore owner.
To complete university research, he said, stores contract with university professors with doctoral degrees. “We share the wages evenly,” Mahmoud said.
“I help the students to solve their homework and explain the lessons, in addition to doing some of the requested research, ” said a non-Bahraini professor, who works in a private university and was contacted through an online ad. “The money I receive helps me to support my family,” he added.
Apparently, no law prevents bookstores from doing research on behalf of students. Still, the university code forbids academic plagiarism and those who resort to it are supposed to be punished.
“The university rejects, in explicit laws, all that contradicts academic integrity, including academic plagiarism,” said Hesham Mohammed Al-Ammal, the head of the anti-plagiarism committee and the dean of the faculty of information technology at the University of Bahrain. He explained that the university is disciplining students who plagiarize, in an effort to curb the spread of cheating.
However, a professor of physics at the University of Bahrain’s faculty of science who asked to remain anonymous, said his colleagues need to be more active in fighting cheating and cannot rely solely on punishment as a deterrent.
“The research trade has become a widespread phenomenon whose outcome cannot be put on the student alone. We must educate, guide, and help them to write their research,” he said. He emphasized the need to teach students how to write scientific research papers through mandatory courses in their first semester as an essential part of the effort to stop cheating.
“Students need to develop skills in research and writing. Neglecting this will produce a whole generation lacking abilities in research, innovation, invention, and creativity,” he said.