Plagiarism is a scourge in Thai academia which must be addressed urgently

By | Fri 13 Jan 2023

When I was an undergraduate in Australia, it was drummed into us that plagiarism was one of the most sinful academic conducts. It was essentially stealing someone else’s work and taking undue credit for it. If caught, punishments ranged from getting zero on the paper to failing that subject.

Recently, there was an expose of lecturers at Chiang Mai University (CMU) accused of paying for their names to be added in academic papers, giving the appearance that they co-wrote and co-researched them.

Based on CityNews’ information, I learn that there’s an equivalent of an online shopping mall for academic papers. So absurd was it that some lecturers have been found to write 10 theses in a single year in various academic disciplines.

On the one hand, I was shocked as I had high regard for CMU. On the other hand, the realpolitik part of me knew that CMU was still embedded in Thailand’s system. And unfortunately, many things in this great country are for sale. (I’ll let you ponder on that.)

It’d be like me writing a book on politics this year, the world’s economy the next year, and Picasso the year after. It’s impossible for a person to know so much in various fields, let alone write books on them in a short time.

That’s why we don’t see Nobel Prize psychologist Daniel Kahneman write about geography, agriculture, or financial engineering, as his training is in Behavioral Economics.

I recall many international students in Australia had hired others to write essays for them. It was the tutors’ job (typically Ph.D. students) marking those papers to catch them. One way was this: Say a Chinese student who barely spoke English submitted a paper that read like a native Ph.D. student’s writing, that’s a dead giveaway that something was amiss.

Another way is using an algorithm to detect plagiarism, thanks to academic publications being fully digitalized.

What motivated the alleged academics to purchase someone else’s work?

I feel qualified to answer this as I had lived in the academic world for so many years and had wanted to become a lecturer overseas.

Answer: Career advancement, money, and status.

In the academic realm, publishing academic journals is more valuable and prestigious than teaching students. It is the main KPI in getting a promotion from say, Senior Lecturer to Associate Professor, with a higher pay scale.

Moreover, when your names are cited in hundreds of literatures, it’s easier to get grants and funding. You increasingly gain recognition and fame in your field. Your department moves you to a corner office with a nice campus view.

They say “You no longer have to teach. Just keep pumping out papers and earn higher ranking for our university.”

Soon, you are invited to give lectures at conferences around the world. All expenses paid for.

As it were, you become an “alpha academic gorilla.”

While I understand in the last decades there has been a push for universities to be a profit-making machine where global ranking is everything, this has the consequence of putting pressure on lecturers to produce more papers to get promotion, or worse to keep their jobs. Like many jobs, academia has become a very competitive career. Thus, a short-cut like thesis-for-sale serves as an incentive for many academic-career-climbers.

It is sad that Thai academics have to sink this low.

To be frank, Thais with PhDs from Thailand have never impressed me. Many academics here gain much respect from their students.

“Use Dr. everytime you address me” they demand, their chest puffed up. But in talking to them, I immediately knew they were bullshit artists (pardon my French), using their cheap credentials as a front when in actual fact, they couldn’t even write a paragraph in English.)

I’m going to make an assumption that other lecturers from other Thai universities such as Chula, Thammasat, and Mahidol may have also allegedly engaged in this practice. I advise them to correct this immediately before Thailand’s education reputation sinks even lower.

Should this punishment be fit for academic plagiarism? Picture credit:

The bottom line: When students plagiarize a paragraph out of ignorance, it’s forgivable. But when academics do it, or worse purchase others’ work, it is unforgivable. They’re a disgrace in the Thai educational community.

What if we found out Yoda were stealing his colleagues’ wisdoms all along. We would feel cheated. And rightly so.

Last but not least, the next logical step is ‘degrees for sale.’

Why bother studying?  An MA’s for $4,000. A PhD’s for $5,000.

The credentials will be emailed to you. Thank you for shopping with us!

This is solely a personal opinion of the author and is independent of his political party’s stance.

*Note: The 1st image’s credit: