Otago Daily Times

Inquiry into whether staff encouraged scam


THE University of Otago will investigat­e whether staff encouraged medical students to scam the system and holiday when they should have been studying.

University of Otago vicechance­llor Harlene Hayne confirmed yesterday the university was launching a formal inquiry into how more than 50 finalyear medical students used part of their threemonth work placements as holidays in 2019.

The inquiry would broadly consider the administra­tion of sixthyear electives, particular­ly in 2019 but also in previous years, Prof Hayne said.

It would look for any evidence of inadequate elective attendance by trainee interns in the years before 2019.

It would also look into the extent, if any, to which Otago staff were aware of or encouraged insufficie­nt elective attendance, she said.

Rumours about fake placements emerged at the university’s Christchur­ch campus in June 2019.

Soon after, Stuff reported some medical students chose medical centres in Belize, Bosnia and Italy, where they could get their placement signed off after a week or less.

The university then confirmed Eastern Europe was one of the destinatio­ns used in the travel rort.

An initial investigat­ion found 15 students guilty of misconduct.

A subsequent investigat­ion found 53 students had undermined their work placements.

Late last year, Otago Medical School dean Barry Taylor said the situation was not likely to be restricted to the 2019 students or the Otago Medical School.

The university acknowledg­ed its systems allowed the dishonesty to occur.

Prof Hayne said yesterday the inquiry would look into the adequacy of steps taken by the Otago Medical School to tighten its procedures, and what further steps might be recommende­d in future elective management.

The inquiry will be chaired by Australian National University Chairman Emeritus Prof Nicholas Glasgow.

He will be joined by University of Otago department of anatomy Emeritus Prof Gareth Jones and Prof Shelley Griffiths, of the faculty of law.

Submission­s on the terms of reference for the inquiry were open until March 12.

The terms of reference for the inquiry were close to being settled in March, but university operations have been disrupted by Covid19.

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