This is the executive summary of a group research project conducted by students in my Modern Chinese Economic History course in spring of 2014.

This work could only have been conducted under my direction - no Chinese faculty member would dare to investigate the rampant cheating in the civil engineering department.   In addition to the widespread academic dishonesty, the investigation found that there seems to be no civil engineering program in China - with the possible exception of a program at Tsinghua - that meets international accreditation standards - meaning that no graduate from a school in China will be eligible to take the PE exam for most countries without significant additional training or experience. 

The full report is available.  Contact me if interested.

An Evaluation of Academic Integrity in the International Civil Engineering Program at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology


Prepared by

Students of Modern Chinese Economic History    Zhejiang University of Science and Technology

  Spring, 2014

William D. Markle, Ph.D.  Professor


Participating Students

Salman Wasir     Tong Xiaixia     Dancan Siparo Ntirra     Carine Sonia Barutwanyo     Ali Mohamed Ahmed     Chadya Lys Everole Okola Aha

Mary Nyamvumba     Matshik Isabelle Mbako     Mahad Abdullahi Mire     Musabao Kahingania David     Wang Xiaoyan     Ren Zhoudi

Zhou Zhenhao     Shen Bijia     Wang Chenyang     Bogdan Oprea     Mao Wanling


An Evaluation of Academic Integrity in the International Civil Engineering Program at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology

Executive Summary

      Accreditation is the process by which a university program is accepted into the academic community.   Is an academic program doing teaching, and research, that is consistent with the quality standards in the field?   Can an academic civil engineering program produce engineers who know enough, have experience enough, are trustworthy enough, to be trusted with the lives, projects, and financial resources of their clients in the future?

      Governments in much of the world do not decide whether an academic program meets the requirements of knowledge transfer and academic integrity.  Accreditation is a peer evaluation of the quality of a program. 

      Academics from other schools and professionals in the field review the teaching, research, students, and outcomes of a program to judge its effectiveness, quality, and correspondence to standards in the academic and professional communities.    Academic programs judged to meet the standards of the academic and professional community are accredited, and are considered part of the academic community.  A program that is not accredited does not necessarily close down; a program might actually be quite successful, and of good quality.   But non-accreditation means that a program has not been admitted to the academic community of scholarship and research, as judged by peers – other scholars.

      In this evaluation, we are looking at the ZUST civil engineering program, with regard to only one element – academic integrity.  Integrity is an essential part of professional and academic life in engineering.  A student who cheats on an exam, when only a grade is at stake, might be expected to cheat on design of a bridge or a building when a lot of money is at stake.   Engineering as a profession does not want such people.

      While individual cases of university cheating and plagiarism would not normally affect accreditation of an engineering program – an individual student can be failed in courses, or expelled from school - the assumption in academic life is that no department or program would permit failures of academic integrity to become epidemic.   Widespread cheating, in one course or over time in several courses in a program, would be cause for immediate attention from departmental leaders, college deans, and university administrators, including the provost.   Accreditation programs would certainly investigate reported incidents of widespread academic dishonesty, whether reported by faculty, students, or outsiders.  If such information becomes widely known, it would affect the ability of the university to attract quality teachers, and affect the ability of students to get better jobs when they graduate.

The goal of this evaluation is to determine whether there is widespread violation of academic standards for honesty in the ZUST civil engineering program.    There have been allegations of widespread cheating on exams and tests.  Is that true?  What response from the civil engineering department faculty or administration?  If true, have students been expelled or punished?   Are violations of academic standards for honesty tolerated at other universities?   How do other schools address the problem?    The results of this evaluation will not produce an answer, “yes,” or  “no.”    We will get information on the experience of students and teachers at ZUST and at other schools, report on our findings, and let others decide what to do as the next step.

The survey and interview results suggest that academic dishonesty is found in a rampant manner within ZUST. The surveys collected and interviews taken from students and teachers across ZUST’s learning environment seem to point that cheating is a serious and dangerous problem for the system, a problem that the administration does not take seriously at the moment. The consequences of such behavior by the administration are leading to a poor quality learning environment and a cheaper degree, which puts students graduating from this program in a difficult stance. All the results and conclusions are based on the surveys and interviews collected in ZUST and in the similar universities as a mean of comparison. The results mainly provide the idea that the unwillingness to control cheating defeats attempts by the school’s administration desire, to upgrade ZUST, from a college (xue yuan) to a university (da xue) level, creating an incentive for students to minimize their efforts in the learning process and engage in being dishonest.

A meaningful interview came from one of the graduates of 2014 promotion. He was asked through an email, what is his perspective on academic dishonesty in ZUST, based on the citation: “A student who cheats on an exam, when only a grade is at stake, might be expected to cheat on design of a bridge or a building when a lot of money is at stake.   Engineering as a profession does not want such people.”

After four years within ZUST civil engineering program, his answers could not be more sincere: “The statement above is, in my opinion, arguably right. I have seen a lot of cases like this in my university life, for about four years. I will not lie to you, I have also cheated two or three times in my exam. I do not quite remember which courses they were, but one of them was finite elements taught by Wang Ji Min. I did that because I could not understand his course, as a whole, due to the difficulty of the course and because the teacher was not competent with his English. For the other courses, I studied hard and did just fine until I graduated few days ago.

What intrigued me was, in four years of university life, I always find students who cheats on every exam. They use their phone (mainly wechat) to take photos then shared the answers. I have never seen anything like this before, so I am quite surprised. 

Cheating in class, based on my experiences, is the faulty of both students and teacher, lets just say 70% faulty on students and 30% on teachers. Students come from all over the world, so they have varied learning background, because we all finished high school. However, I find that the quality of students enrolled in the university (mostly from African continent) is surprisingly below average. It is not because they are not capable, but because they are lazy. They did not put much effort to learn in the courses. I also found something strange with students that applied for a major in ZUST and skipped most of the class because they are working or some other reasons, only showed up 2 or 3 times in class, then attended final exam and PASSED the course. Of course, they copied all the answers from others. This is all I know about integrity problems in ZUST, and sometimes Chinese students also do it, academics dishonesty.”

The conclusion drawn from his interview can be stated with the following quote: “The civil engineering degree then becomes not the first step to a progressive career, but a limiting step.   The graduate is confined to lower level work, without professional engineer status, unless significant additional education or experience is obtained.”