Exam cheating inquiry continues 8 months on
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is still looking through material it seized eight months ago in an investigation into a far-reaching cheating scandal.
In May last year, the authority and police began an inquiry into an Auckland outfit that offered academic "solutions" on order via a Chinese language website called Assignment4U, operated from an office in central Auckland. The office worked under the banner of a company called Ateama Ltd.
A Sunday Star-Times investigation, in which a Chinese-speaking reporter posed as a student needing an essay for her BA degree at Canterbury University, exposed how the operation delivered the essay three hours before it was due for $270 cash.
Police eventually searched Assignment4U's premises and seized computers and documents which form part of the NZQA investigation.
Deputy Chief Executive Jane von Dadelszen said the investigation continued but could not say what progress had been made or when it was scheduled to end.
NZQA last year obtained undertakings from the principals of Assignment4U - Penju Chen and Steven Quan Li - not to engage in conduct that contravenes the Education Act. It had initially sought a court injunction.
Von Dadelszen said NZQA was unable to discuss details of the investigation while it was under way but it continued to work with police and the Auckland Crown Solicitor's Office.
"NZQA also established a Joint Working Party on Academic Cheating Services with Universities New Zealand at the time the allegations were made," she said.
The party reviewed good practice and quality assurance issues, and in September last year NZQA had issued a new practice guide.
The Star-Times understands the investigation has struck major snags, mainly with translation and sorting through computer files, and von Dadelszen refused to say whether any students or ex-students had been spoken to by investigators or how many educational institutions were involved.
She would not say whether any assignment writers had been interviewed or how many qualifications were potentially implicated.
A spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the minister had been kept informed by NZQA but he did not answer a question about whether Joyce was happy with progress.
AUT University said it had had no contact with NZQA on the topic. Massey and Auckland University were not able to respond before the paper went to press.
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