21 Nov 2018

Otago University cheating probe: Medical students 'incredibly anxious and stressed'

2:30 pm on 21 November 2018

An inquiry into possible cheating at the University of Otago has left medical students feeling anxious and stressed, says the Otago University Students' Association president.

Student life can be difficult.

Medical students are unhappy with the way Otago University is handling an inquiry into possible cheating. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Third-year medical students at the Otago Medical School don't yet know if they'll have to re-sit their exams after allegations of cheating.

In an end-of-year practical exam, students were asked to demonstrate a clinical skill, such as examining a patient. Students were examined in batches and the Otago Medical School says students in the first session told the others what was in store.

The university is now investigating which students cheated and what the consequences will be, however, Otago University Students' Association president Caitlin Barlow-Groome said since an initial email, there had been no communication with students and they were being left in the lurch about the process.

Ms Barlow-Groome said the students are "incredibly anxious and stressed".

"Half of them are moving to Christchurch or Wellington next year and if they have to come back to re-sit their exams or repeat the whole year, it's frustrating for their lifestyle."

Ms Barlow-Groome said it would it be outrageous if the entire year group had to repeat the year because of the possible actions of a few students.

While investigations continued, the university should improve its communications, she said.

"They feel totally left out and don't know what's happening. Has someone confessed to cheating, is there any evidence or has this been blown out of all proportion? The first thing they need to do is talk to the students. "

The Otago Medical School refused to be interviewed by RNZ about Ms Barlow-Groome's comments. Earlier this week the acting dean, Barry Taylor, said the university knew that cheating took place, but not who was involved.

"The Otago Medical School has identified that in one component of the end of third year examinations there has been communication between some students regarding the content of examination stations to students waiting for their turn to be examined.

"This was expressly forbidden as it provides an advantage to be forewarned of the exam content [or] task."

However, Professor Taylor said the nature of exams means students cannot quickly learn the content required to pass.