Slovakia: High tolerance for student plagiarism?

There's been a long-running public debate over the quality of University education in Slovakia. In the course of the discussion a major outbreak of plagiarism has been revealed. Students are putting forward other people's work as their own. As Michal Groch reports, Slovakia seems to have a high level of tolerance for plagiarism.

Endless hours of typing at a computer, endless work that engulfs their desk. The typical vision of a university student. Is this is also the case in Slovakia? In many cases it is not. The University education in Slovakia has a long term problem with plagiarism. What would be absolutely unacceptable in United States, Australia or many other countries, has become a socially tolerated method, which is usually considered to be only as a sort of little evil that won’t hurt anyone. I had a word with Professor Hvorecky from the City University Bratislava, probably the only university in Slovakia that really fights plagiarism effectively.

Why is plagiarism so common at Slovak Universities?

“It’s a sort of a tradition. So I presume that many professors of our universities were among those people who either plagiarized or let others to copy from them. And still, the quality of our education is quite good. It’s more a cultural aspect.”

Do you also cooperate with other Universities? How do they approach this issue?

“Particularly to my best knowledge, the Comenius University of Bratislava checks all dissertations for plagiarism. Slovak Technical University in Bratislava checks students’ programs for plagiarism. Our school is much more systematic in that. Which means, that we control not only some student’s output or selected student output, we check all. We’re trying to make certain sort of propaganda, letting people know at rectors’ conferences, other conferences and in private talks to people from public universities.”

What about the experiences of professors or lecturers who came from abroad? For example from United States.

“They are even in worse situation than I used to be, because I’ve been here and most of my life I spent in Czechoslovakia and Slovakia. So for me it was more or less natural. But if someone comes from outside, particularly from United States, Australia or English universities, where this is extremely suppressed, they explain and tell us their experience that they are shocked in a way.”

If you compare situation in Slovakia with other European countries…is there a big difference?

“Probably the entire region of central and east Europe is quite affected by that. I know that universities in English speaking countries are much stronger in this. Particularly those who have society of individuals. Our society is quite collectivistic. And in collectivistic society this is presumed that what we do is our mutual product. Naturally in such a situation, plagiarism has more room to exist.”

Can we go as far as saying that plagiarism and cheating goes hand in hand with corruption?

“I don’t see the direct relationship, but what is worse on this is creating an atmosphere that doesn’t respect law, doesn’t respect regulations, principles…And this is the main reason why we fight it.”