Click for Academy of Management home page

Academy of Management

Survey of grad schools finds that MBA students cheat most, although engineering students come in a close second

September 1, 2006

For more information, contact: Benjamin Haimowitz,

Graduate business students, the great majority MBA candidates, hold the dubious distinction of cheating more than students in other graduate professional schools or at graduate faculties of arts and sciences -- although engineering students are not far behind.

In a survey of more than 5,000 graduate students reported in the new issue of Academy of Management Learning and Education, 56% of the business students admitted to one or more incidents of cheating in the past year compared to 47% of their non-business peers.

Asked to break down the prevalence of cheating among the non-business cohort, the study's lead author, Donald L. McCabe of Rutgers University, indicated that graduate engineering students were a close second at 54%, followed by students in the physical sciences (50%), medical and other health-care students (49%), law students (45%), graduate students in the arts (43%) and graduate students in the social sciences and humanities (39%).

Earlier surveys of undergraduates had found that business students cheat more than their non-business peers. The current report, which the authors believe to be first multi-campus study to examine cheating among graduate students, is based on data from about 5,300 survey respondents at 54 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, including 623 students in 32 graduate business programs.

"We have found that graduate students in general are cheating at an alarming rate and business-school students are cheating even more than others," conclude the study's authors, who, in addition to Prof. McCabe, are Kenneth D. Butterfield of Washington State University and Linda Klebe Trevino at Penn State. "To us that means that business school faculty and administrators must do something, because doing nothing simply reinforces the belief that high levels of cheating are commonplace and acceptable."

While initiatives by individual faculty members can make a difference, the authors note, "previous research has found that many college faculty are reluctant to get involved in academic integrity cases for a variety of reasons, including fear of litigation...Instead, we propose that administrators work with faculty and students to develop broader programmatic efforts based upon notions of ethical community building," an approach that "has been found to be effective in undergraduate education."

Faculty and administrators, the authors continue, should "engage students in an ongoing dialogue about academic integrity that begins with recruiting, continues in orientation sessions and initiation ceremonies, and continues throughout the program." It may also include initiating an honor code, preferably one that "emphasize[s] the promotion of integrity among students rather than the detection and punishment of dishonesty."

The study, entitled "Academic Dishonesty in Graduate Business Programs: Prevalence, Causes, and Proposed Action," is in the September issue of Academy of Management Learning and Education. This peer-reviewed publication, now entering its fifth year, is published quarterly by the academy, which, with about 17,000 members in 92 countries, is the largest organization in the world devoted to management research and teaching. The academy's other publications are the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, and Academy of Management Perspectives.

Media Coverage:
BBC News. Ethics arrive in business schools. (Friday, April 03, 2009).
Bloomberg Press Service. MBA Students Cheat More Than Other Grad Students, Study Finds. (Monday, September 25, 2006).
Boston Herald. Bottom-line minds are starting early. (Sunday, October 01, 2006). Duke MBAs Fail Ethics Test. (Monday, April 30, 2007). Duke MBAs Fail Ethics Test. (Friday, May 23, 2008).
CBS Marketwatch. M.B.A.s: The biggest cheaters. (Friday, September 29, 2006).
Financial Times. MBA students cheat the most, says survey. (Thursday, September 21, 2006).
National Post Online. Time to scrap the MBA to prepare leaders. (Tuesday, March 31, 2009).
National Post Online. Why a Liberal Arts Education Can Best Prepare Business Leaders. (Wednesday, March 17, 2010).
Reuters. Business grad students most likely to cheat: study. (Wednesday, September 20, 2006).
St. Petersburg Times. They're big but not big enough to fess up. (Monday, October 02, 2006).
The Denver Post. Wily MBA students lead cheating pack. (Tuesday, October 03, 2006).
The New York Times. Is It Time to Retrain B-schools?. (Sunday, March 15, 2009).
The Wall Street Journal. Their Cheatin' Hearts. (Friday, May 11, 2007).
The Washington Post. Captains of Industry, Masters of Cheating. (Wednesday, September 27, 2006).

Academy of Management
Member Services
Academy of Management
Online Opportunities
Academy of Management