Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Academic Integrity

pp 365-382


Why Students Cheat: An Exploration of the Motivators of Student Academic Dishonesty in Higher Education

  • Mark BrimbleAffiliated withGriffith Business School, Griffith University Email author 


It is difficult to remember any recent conversation about assessment or learning standards in higher education where academic dishonesty was not mentioned. Tension in relation to student behaviors in this regard appears to be growing as the perfect storm of commercialization, massification, disengagement, resource constraints, short termism, and increased (and ease of) opportunity converge to influence student (and faculty) behavior and attitudes. Add this to the rapidly evolving higher education landscape with a workforce that is often not trained in education, is increasingly casualized, and often deprioritizes teaching and learning relative to other academic pursuits, and the opportunity for academic dishonesty is obvious.

Within this context, this chapter examines the motivations of student academic dishonesty in higher education. Drawing on the empirical literature, seven groups of motivators are identified that illustrate a range of contextual, situational, and awareness/knowledge-based motivators.

It is concluded that while a range of factors motivate student behavior, the higher education landscape and academic culture are also key components. There are a range of strategies that may mitigate these activities (such as academic professional development, improved assessment design, student training, and technological advancements). It is argued that a dedicated medium-term approach is required to combat the rising tide and the changing higher education landscape.