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In the spring of 2017, the UvA started a project to replace Ephorus – then the University’s standard plagiarism detection program – with Turnitin. A recent blog post by UvA student Hans de Zwart and a Folia article on this topic have raised questions on whether data is safeguarded and whether its use is in line with existing laws and regulations. The UvA Executive Board considers it essential that users’ privacy be optimally protected.

In the spring of 2017, the UvA started to replace Ephorus with Turnitin. Both products have the same service provider (iParadigms). The UvA’s software licence for Ephorus was coming to an end and it was expected that iParadigm would eventually stop supporting the software.

Concerns and re-evaluation

In late 2017, it became clear that besides functional and technical problems, there were legal aspects concerned in the transition from Ephorus to Turnitin. This is why the UvA started a process to re-evaluate Turnitin at the end of 2017, in which current agreements and contracts will also be assessed.

The outcome of discussions with Turnitin on suitable solutions to the technical and functional problems as well as the legal evaluation of the current agreements will be crucial in determining whether the UvA will continue using Turnitin or whether it will switch to another plagiarism detection support service.

Temporary solution

Until the re-evaluation of Turnitin has been completed, lecturers can continue to use the program. When creating an assignment in Turnitin, lecturers are requested to select the option ‘institutional repository’.

This option will ensure students’ submitted work is solely inspected for similarities (plagiarism) and only saved in an own (private) UvA repository.

On the current agreement

The current licence agreement with iParadigms was entered into by SURFmarket – the UvA leases the licence through SURFmarket. iParadigms has explicitly promised the UvA that written assignments and other relevant personal data will only be used to assess written assignments.

Plagiarism detection

Academic integrity is integral to academic teaching and research. Besides stressing its importance in education by, for example, teaching students to properly cite material, it is crucial to be able to inspect for cases of plagiarism. The large number of students enrolled in various programmes make plagiarism detection software essential. The use of such plagiarism detection software forms part of the Regulations Governing Fraud and Plagiarism for UvA Students.