Feature: Interview With Prof Dr Mansor Fadzil, SVP of OUM

By Jimmy Teo Hui Thian ((jteo@oum.edu.my)

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense and much has been said about it. Besides being unethical, it can lead to disciplinary actions or expulsions. TCX spoke to PROF DR MANSOR FADZIL, Senior Vice President of OUM, to get his views on this topic.

Jimmy: How does OUM view plagiarism?

Prof Mansor: As a university, we strive to produce quality graduates who can write their own proposals, produce original assignments and uphold academic integrity at all times. In order for our country to progress, we need to produce graduates who embrace integrity as part of their nature.

So, instead of focusing merely on plagiarism, we would like to broaden our scope by inculcating “personal integrity”. Soundness of moral character is important, especially in the academic world where a large part of one’s education begins. I believe that lack of integrity and greed contributed to the recent fi nancial crisis. It was so severe that it affected not only our country’s economy but the world’s fi nancial system as well.

In our efforts to deal with plagiarism, we are looking at the bigger picture of promoting integrity among our staff, tutors and learners. We believe that by cultivating this culture of integrity, we will be able to eradicate plagiarism and other unethical practices in our institution as well.

Jimmy: Is plagiarism a problem at OUM?

Prof Mansor: We see plagiarism as a very serious issue. I would say that the situation is not very severe; I would put it between 10 to 15%. But this happens everywhere else as well. In fact, a lot of universities admit having plagiarised work submitted by their learners. Even the United Kingdom has a high plagiarism rate. Of course, this is not by way of excusing ourselves, but more a matter of stating the fact that it happens everywhere.

Jimmy: What are the key measures taken by OUM to reduce plagiarism?

Prof Mansor: One of the things that we are implementing this coming May semester is to get learners to submit their assignments online in order for us to feed them into our plagiarism detection software. We have both free and licensed software that we will use for this purpose.

Another thing we are doing is to come up with a more comprehensive plagiarism policy in order for us to address this menace. I have directed the Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment (CTLA), Prof Dr Shaari Abdul Hamid, to analyse, study and assess the best practices with regards to plagiarism prevention and make proper recommendations for us to adopt and tighten our plagiarism policy. This policy is to address issues like what actions are to be taken when a learner is caught plagiarising, who would be held responsible, and the severity of plagiarism and its consequences.

We also plan to display our plagiarism policy on our website, hopefully by the end of the year, to educate our learners on this issue. Learners should know that avoiding plagiarism is their responsibility.

Jimmy: Do you have any advice for our learners?

Prof Mansor: Learners who plagiarise are actually cheating themselves and not the university. At the end of the day, these learners will get grades that do not refl ect their true capabilities. Consequently, they will face lots of challenges at their workplace when they are unable to perform as expected. They should take this opportunity to develop their skills and not resort to shortcut methods to get their work done.

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I can educate my learners about the wrongfulness of plagiarism by:

setting a good example i.e. not committing plagiarism myself in the notes or materials that I give them
teaching them the correct way to quote references in their assignments
explaining to them the difference between original work and plagiarised work
severely penalising them whenever they hand in plagiarised work
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