The integrity of higher education in Thailand is facing a serious challenge, with alleged instances of academic plagiarism threatening to undermine its value. Stepping up to address the issue, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation (MHESI) has taken legal action against approximately five online vendors found to be involved in the transaction of plagiarised academic works. This move was triggered by concerns raising suspicions of nearly 100 scholars across 33 universities potentially acquiring research papers off the Internet, a serious breach in academic ethics.
Supachai Pathumnakul, the Deputy Secretary of MHESI, brought this issue to light, stating that an investigation involving 109 scholars suspected of such unethical practices is currently underway. The initial findings suggest nine academics to be in breach, having purchased research articles from the web, with 21 individuals cleared of the accusation. Yet, investigations on the rest are yet to conclude.
It was an unusual surge in publication output by a group of university lecturers, often outside their field of expertise, that first sparked these concerns. This anomaly led the authorities to instruct the 33 nationwide universities involved to scrutinize the authenticity of their staff’s academic works.
The Deputy Secretary expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of investigation from eight of the implicated universities and urged them to expedite the process. To deter such practices, he recommended strong disciplinary actions against those found guilty of academic plagiarisation.
Furthermore, Supachai Pathumnakul divulged the ministry’s intention to involve law enforcement, by requesting police to press criminal charges against at least five online vendors selling a variety of research papers, thereby violating the Tertiary Education Act. He further added that the primary customers of these unlawful services are often employed by state-run universities, given how their professional growth often hinges on the level of their research publication.
The unfortunate fallout of these suspect practices was evident when the Royal Chulabhorn Academy had to dictate compulsory leave to a staff member following the unearthing of purchased research in their work. Similarly, Pongrak Sribunditmongkol, the Chancellor of the Chiang Mai University who also presides over the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT), confessed to misconduct within his institution. One researcher was dismissed, and two others are under investigation for academic plagiarism.
In a collectively echoed sentiment, “The CUPT strongly condemns these actions. They are a severe infringement of ethics and not to be trivialized,” Sribunditmongkol stated, adding, “Even one person’s actions can tarnish the reputation of the entire academic community.”
Echoing this sentiment, MHESI Minister Anek Laothamatas began the year by urging all universities to subject their staff members implicated in such deceptive practices, to legal action.