Unitec defends passing six cheating Saudi students

The six students cheated during their final exam.
The six students cheated during their final exam.

The head of Auckland's Unitec is denying race played a factor when deciding the penalty for six Saudi Arabian students caught cheating in their final exam.

The students were allowed to pass their electrical course despite having near-identical answers for two of their questions.

Two Saudi Arabian government officials attended a key meeting when Unitec investigated the case.

Unitec chief executive Dr Rick Ede doesn't deny the cheating occurred, but says the right course of action was taken.

The investigation found two of the questions were identical to those in the previous year's tests, and the students would have been able to memorise the same model answers.

"The only thing that matters to us is whether or not a student has met the criteria required to pass a course. No factors other than the actual academic circumstances are ever taken into account."

The students' lecturer reportedly resigned in protest, telling NZME the institution "places Saudi Arabian money ahead of the health and wellbeing of its staff".

But Dr Ede says that wasn't how it played out.

"The lecturer actually left Unitec before the results of the investigation were known and before the investigator made his decision.

"The students' backgrounds, identities, and the country they came from, have no bearing whatsoever on any decision taken."

He says cheating is not uncommon in any institute, but the only reason it's caused a stir is because of their race.

"It's very unfortunate such connections were made.

"Our focus is on treating all of our students exactly the same, and ensuring students who are awarded pass grades merit those pass grades."