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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education) 9:30 pm, 25th January 2017

The Minister is absolutely right: this should not be rushed and we should get it spot on. We have a responsibility to universities, students and academics. I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Watson, mentioned software. There is a software programme called Turnitin, which will identify parts that have been plagiarised.

Professor Deech—I am sorry, I mean the noble Baroness, Lady Deech; I am not sure whether I am promoting or demoting her—raised the issue of students who are caught. Interestingly, there are solicitors who advertise their services on campus to represent and help those students who are caught. When students are caught, as noble Lords can imagine, there are varied practices right across the sector about how they are treated. Some students who are caught are given a slap on the wrist; others are actually sent down. Some have to repeat a year and some lose marks, so there is no consistent policy in higher education as a whole.

I am delighted that the Minister told us of the new initiative that will be announced. The NUS, as well as supporting students—your heart goes out to students who are caught in such a situation, perhaps for all sorts of reasons—will be there on campus to make sure students realise how serious this is. If they are caught, the NUS, wearing another hat, is there to represent them, I suppose. I am delighted that this initiative is taking place and we will see where it leads.

Finally, I mentioned Professor Newton, who emailed me. It was interesting, and this is why I hope to come back to this. He wrote that he just wanted to highlight the word “intent”:

“The amendment as currently proposed would make it quite easy … for essay-writing companies to hide behind a defence that they provide ‘custom study aids’ and that it is the students’ responsibility to use them appropriately. If the amendment could be tweaked to take ‘intent’ out of the equation, then the law would become much more powerful”.

I hope that between now and Report, we could perhaps meet to talk this over and see where the initiative goes. We really do need to take action on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 467 withdrawn.