Universities are battling to keep ahead of students cheating on coursework, partly because of internet sites that offer to ghostwrite assignments for a fee.

Figures from WA's four public universities obtained under freedom of information laws reveal more than 4000 students were warned or disciplined in the past two years for submitting the work of others as their own, colluding or cheating in exams, compared with nearly 2000 in the previous two years.

WA's biggest institution, Curtin University, handed out 1914 warnings for plagiarism in the past two years. Disciplinary action was taken in another 837 cases.

Since 2011, 418 students were warned or disciplined for plagiarism at the University of WA, 398 at Edith Cowan and 312 at Murdoch.

Another 29 students cheated in exams at UWA, 46 at ECU, 35 at Murdoch and 186 at Curtin.

UWA (70) and Murdoch (93) also provided figures for students guilty of colluding on assignments.

Penalties for academic misconduct range from marks deducted to expulsion.

UWA acting deputy vice-chancellor (education) Grady Venville said increased enrolments could be one reason for the rise in reports of cheating.

She also suspected more students were tempted by the rising number of businesses and individuals offering on social media to do assignments for a fee.

Professor Venville said students juggling part-time work with study were under more stress than in the past and so might find themselves compromising their academic integrity by cheating.

Plagiarism cases at Murdoch more than trebled in the past two years. Deputy vice-chancellor Ann Capling attributed this to stricter reporting of minor cases.

When Murdoch found social media sites targeting its students to write assignments for them for a fee, the proponents were contacted and told their advertising was seen as an attempt to aid misconduct.

She said all Murdoch students from next year would have to pass a course on academic integrity.

The West Australian

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