One in five Otago med students have qualifications withheld after rort exposed

Otago medical students who lied about their overseas work placements will have their qualifications withheld after a wide-ranging enquiry found the problem was even worse than thought.

As part of their course, the final year students must complete a three-month elective either here or abroad in order to gain practical experience.

However it was revealed that many went on holiday instead of completing their work placements, then submitted misleading reports.

A university investigation released on Monday found 53 final year students - or 21.5 percent of year group - were involved in the rort.

Dean of the Otago Medical School, Professor Barry Taylor says the Medical School is "extremely disappointed" by the extent of the issue.

"The University is disappointed in the actions of these young people, whose behaviour has fallen well short of what was expected of them as students and future health professionals," he said in a statement.

"As a consequence of their decisions, they are now facing serious consequences."

These will include:

  • Automatic referral to the Fitness to Practice Committee
  • Pay back the grant funding for each week of holiday they took instead of attending their placements
  • Writing a self-reflective essay
  • Agreeing to a package of community service or research that will ensure time lost from the elective is made up
  • Being unable to graduate with the rest of their class in December

As a result of the investigation, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne has announced another inquiry which will look at how this level of misconduct occurred. The inquiry is also expected to look into whether this has happened in the past.

"This is a wide-spread situation and not likely to be isolated to this year's students, or just this Medical School. The University acknowledges that its systems relating to the elective placements have allowed for the dishonesty to occur," Prof Taylor says.

"Some immediate measures have already been put in place to decrease chances of this occurring again, such as blacklisting some locations, increased reporting requirements, and mid-placement checks with student supervisors."