When I came to the University of Georgia as an international student from Germany in 2010, I had not heard about the concept of academic integrity or an academic honesty policy before. The only thing I had heard from a friend who had studied abroad in the United States before me was: “Be careful. The Americans are much more serious about cheating than we are.”

Of course, we were not allowed to cheat in school and university in Germany, and the consequences could have been as severe as they can be at American institutions, but I don’t remember ever having had an explicit conversation with a German teacher or professor about how to be academically honest. There was no academic honesty policy, no Office of Academic Honesty, and no official institutional process for dealing with academic misconduct at my university—at least not that I was aware of—and I never had any formal education about cheating and how to avoid it beyond learning how to correctly cite sources. It was just expected to know how appropriate academic conduct looks like.

In hindsight, I’m not even sure whether all professional students and researchers in Germany know how to avoid academic misconduct. In 2011, the topic of plagiarism got widespread attention in German society when it was found that then Minister of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had copied large sections of his dissertation from other sources without citing them. The scandal led to zu Guttenberg’s resignationthe revocation of his degree, and a wave of plagiarism accusations toward other high-profile politicians. In the following years, more people lost their doctorates and their positions—among them, of all people, Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan.

I’m not trying to suggest there are no standards of academic integrity in Germany. There are. My point is that I just had a vague idea what they were and that my knowledge about them came from hearsay, and not from being formally educated. When I came to the U.S., the concept of academic integrity was completely new to me, I was surprised that the university had an explicit and very detailed Academic Honesty Policy, and I learned to appreciate the institutional process for resolving matters of academic misconduct when I taught undergraduate students.

My experience does not seem to be uncommon though. Researchers in Australia, the United States, and Canada have found that international students may be much less likely to have sufficient knowledge and understanding about academic integrity than their domestic counterparts, have much lower confidence in being able to avoid academic misconduct, and are much more likely to commit academic integrity violations (Bertram Gallant, Binkin, & Donohue, 2015; Bretag et al., 2014; Chen & Van Ullen, 2011). These findings were reflected by what I had observed myself while working at UGA’s Office of Academic Honesty. A few weeks ago, I attended an academic integrity violation meeting between an international student and an American professor. It was hard to watch. The student visibly struggled with understanding the language and understanding what they were accused of, why it was wrong to do what they had done, and why there must be consequences. I did not know whether they knew about the university’s academic honesty policy, what the culture of academic honesty was in their home country or at their alma mater, or whether such a culture existed at all in their home country, but it made me think about whether they were thrown into a system that they did not understand. They obviously needed help with navigating the landscape of academic integrity while studying abroad in the U.S. A few weeks later, I conducted an interview with an international student about an online learning module we had created for educating students about the university’s Academic Honesty Policy. The student told me that the module was a godsend for them because they had not learned much about academic honesty in their home country and they had no idea the university even had a policy. Working through the module, they said, made them much more comfortable with being a student in the U.S. and much more confident that they won’t commit academic misconduct.

What I learned through my own experience and my work at UGA’s Office of Academic Honesty is that international students need extra attention when being instructed about academic integrity and academic honesty policies at their American institution, and they need even more support from their institutions than their domestic counterparts (Fatemi & Saito, 2020). We cannot presume that international students come with the same understandings of academic integrity than American, Australian, or Canadian students do, and we cannot even expect that they bring the same appreciation for it. Understanding and appreciation for academic integrity needs to be built. By helping international students understand and appreciate academic integrity and the processes of resolving matters of academic dishonesty as they exist at American institutions, we can make a contribution to strengthening academic integrity across the globe. These students might take their newfound understandings about academic integrity back to their home countries and possibly educate others about it. They might become school teachers or instructors at institutions of higher learning, and they might want to establish a culture of academic integrity in their own communities.


Bertram Gallant, T., Binkin, N., & Donohue, M. (2015). Students at risk for being reported for cheating. Journal of Academic Ethics, 13(3), 217-228. doi:10.1007/s10805-015-9235-5

Bretag, T., Mahmud, S., Wallace, M., Walker, R., McGowan, U., East, J., . . . James, C. (2014). ‘Teach us how to do it properly!’ An Australian academic integrity student survey. Studies in Higher Education, 39(7), 1150-1169. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2013.777406

Chen, Y.-H., & Van Ullen, M. K. (2011). Helping international students succeed academically through research process and plagiarism workshops. College & Research Libraries, 72(3), 209-235.

Fatemi, G., & Saito, E. (2020). Unintentional plagiarism and academic integrity: The challenges and needs of postgraduate international students in Australia. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44(10), 1305-1319. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2019.1683521