There was a new first for academic integrity recently when the pioneering new ACARI Conference was inaugurated to promote academic integrity in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Hosted by Middlesex University Dubai from December 17-19 2023, the event was co-founded by Dr Zeenath Reza Khan, Dr Salim Razi, Dr Shahid Soroya and Dr Muaawia Hamza, and chaired by Dr Sreejith Balasubramaniam. Getting a major new international event off the ground and joining up an academic and research community across huge regions to provide a voice for diverse speakers is a significant achievement that all those involved are undoubtedly and deservedly proud of. It was great to see speakers from countries including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Georgia, Iran, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Morocco contributing to this event.

I participated and presented remotely on ‘Using Universal Design for Learning principles to improve inclusion in academic integrity policies, procedures and teaching’ (see my blog from December 11, 2023) in the ‘Academic Integrity and Students’ strand. I was fascinated to hear of very diverse approaches to academic integrity related to student sanctions, use of artificial intelligence and detection tools in the other sessions in the strand given by presenters from India and Pakistan.

As a remote attendee in a different time zone, I could not attend the whole conference, so will focus on a few highlights. Prof Ann Rogerson (University of Wollongong, Australia) gave a stirring keynote session on ‘The Importance of understanding transitions and disciplinary norms for assessment, research and educational integrity’. Something I really agreed with her about was the argument that students need support with transitions at every level, not just the high school to undergraduate stage, but also at further degree levels, especially for international students who come with different prior learning. She explained that at UoW, students need to complete a 4 hour academic integrity module in order to get access to their grades and that a low penalty of -5% for first minor breaches led to limited repeat transgressions. Again, an area of great interest!

I really enjoyed the panel discussions with speakers from institutions in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. One was entitled ‘Global Education, Local Values’ moderated by Dr Salim Razi from Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey. The panel discussed the importance of institutional structures joining up to support learning about academic integrity, such as through the library, centres for academic success and quality assurance to ensure success. One member noted a gap between student and faculty beliefs about acceptable practice and the reasons given by students for transgressions such as feeling they are not able to say things better than experts and therefore needing to copy. These are familiar challenges!

I attended a great workshop by Dr Sonja Bjelobaba from University of Uppsala, Sweden on ‘Teacher Training in Ethics and Integrity for classrooms in the age of AI’ in which she used Menti to facilitate a very lively discussion among delegates on ethical decision making by students and staff regarding artificial intelligence. Is it ethical for staff to use AI to write feedback to students? This generated a lot of debate!

We are now preparing for the forthcoming ICAI 2024 Annual Conference – look out for blogs leading up to it!