Examining Academic Dishonesty: Implications for Future Accounting Professionals

Examining Academic Dishonesty: Implications for Future Accounting Professionals

Philmore Alleyne (The University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados) and Renée M. Thompson (The University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7531-3.ch008


Academic dishonesty (AD) has plagued many higher education institutions (HEIs). This chapter examines AD among accounting students in business schools and discusses possible mechanisms to reduce misconduct among students, as well as staff. Today's students are tomorrow's accounting professionals. Yet, some HE students strive to succeed at all costs by using unethical means including being aided by dishonest academic staff. For example, the unethical and corrupt practices in Enron, and the subsequent closure of one of the leading international accounting firms, Arthur Andersen, raised questions pertaining to codes of conduct, ethics, and morality being taught in business schools. This chapter reviews the literature, identifies issues from an internet search of actual cases, and then offers recommendations for reducing such detrimental behaviors.
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Academic Dishonesty (AD) has become a major challenge for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) worldwide, especially by accounting students in business schools (Whitley, 1998; Alleyne & Phillips, 2011; Boyle et al., 2016). AD is defined as a student’s use of unauthorized assistance with intent to deceive an instructor or other persons who may be assigned to evaluate the student’s work in meeting course-specific and degree-level requirements (Lambert et al., 2003), as well as by academic staff working on assignments for students or manipulating grades (Galante, 2012).

In business schools, AD is prevalent and serves as a major challenge (Whitley, 1998) as students engage in questionable behaviors using innovative approaches (Nonis & Swift, 2001). Studies show that AD occurs when students have low ethical standards, which may transfer to unethical behavior(s) in the business world. Burke et al. (2007, p. 58) asserted that this is a ‘contributing factor to the failed ethical conduct of our corporate executives and professional accountants’.

Prior research has highlighted how students who commit AD today are more likely to conduct unethical practices in their future workplace (Nonis & Swift, 2001; Lawson, 2004). Of major significance is the fact that many of the global collapses such as Enron and WorldCom had accounting professionals as perpetrators and collaborators. The accounting profession has always promoted itself as having high moral tendencies. Recently, the profession has intensified the rigor and focus on Academic Integrity (AI) and ethical behavior in the code of ethics (AICPA, 2014; IESBA, 2016).

This chapter has four main objectives in relation to future accounting professionals: (1) to determine the factors influencing AD in HEIs; (2) to examine the prevalence of AD in HEIs; (3) to highlight the consequences of AD behavior; and (4) to suggest key actions to reduce AD. The following section reviews the literature on AD and its importance to the accounting profession. Thereafter, the research methodology and several cases of AD and unethical behaviors are presented. This is followed by sections on key actions and a conclusion to this work.

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