“Academic integrity is a way to change the world. Change the university first; then change the world. “- Youngsup Kim

According to The International Center for Academic Integrity, academic integrity can be defined as the commitment to six fundamental values[1]. These values include honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility and courage.

Upholding these values, despite the challenges that life brings (even more relevant in our current crisis with Covid-19), forms the foundation of academic integrity.

They become a rule of thumb, a guideline against which we can measure the integrity of our scholarly communities. Without these guidelines in place, everything we do within the education sector loses credibility – and therefore loses value. It is therefore essential that these values are understood, embedded and upheld to inform ethical decision-making and behaviour.

With the fundamental values as the foundation – they become the embodiment of ideals in action. Whereby academic communities can trust the pursuit of truth within their endeavours. In so doing, the community keeps academic work in check and most importantly, maintains respect for ethical, original and reliable academic work.

Here is what is meant with each value in practical terms:

1. Honesty

hon·es·ty noun 1. The quality of being honest, free from fraud or deception, legitimate, truthful[2]

Honesty is most likely one of the most important foundations of integrity. That is what science (whether social or natural) is all about – seeking the truth.  It must be in place for integrity, trust, fairness, responsibility and courage to come to complete fruition.

Honesty depends on the individual first, with a direct impact on the larger community.  In the pursuit of knowledge, students and faculties have to be honest with both themselves and each other. Honesty lays the foundation for lifelong integrity – and should be prevalent in each and every part of a student and academic’s life.

In the same manner, institutions must commit to being honest with students, their faculties and staff, as well as their supporters, and their broader communities. Honesty begins at an organisational level – setting the tone for the entire academic community. It is out of honesty, that trust is encouraged and developed.

Being truthful, giving credit where it is due (to original work), and keeping promises; Giving factual evidence and always aspiring to being objective – these are the building blocks to honesty and ultimately leads to trust.

2. Trust

trust noun 1. The assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something[3]

Trust is a fundamental pillar of academic integrity. It refers to one’s ability to rely on someone or something to present the truth. The members of an academic community have to know they can trust that work delivered is not falsified and that all work is measured by the same standards. It is only where there is the trust that new research can move forward with confidence. Trust enables a community to exchange ideas, share information and collaborate freely.

In the same manner, one must be able to trust others, one must be worthy of trust. The student must deliver work that is trustworthy. While the institution develops trust through setting clear guidelines for assignments and evaluation of a student’s work – within a timely and equitable manner.

Academic communities of integrity both foster and rely upon climates of mutual trust. Climates of trust encourage and support the free exchange of ideas which in turn allows scholarly inquiry to reach its fullest potential.

3. Fairness

fair·ness noun 1. The quality or state of being fair, especially fair or impartial treatment, lack of favouritism toward one side or another.

Impartial treatment is essential to establishing ethical communities. It reinforces how important truth, ideas, logic and rationality are. For something to be seen as “fair”, reasonable, clear expectations have to be set. All members within the academic community have the right to expect fair treatment and have the responsibility to treat others fairly too.

Faculty members should lead by example and communicate their expectations of students fairly. They should also respond to dishonesty consistently, upholding academic integrity principles without fail.

Students, again, act fairly when they do their own original work, acknowledge when they do borrow or refer to someone else’s work and following academic integrity policies. This in turn upholds the reputation of an institution.

Similarly, administrators and staff are fair to their communities by setting policies that are clear, useful and just.

Fairness is achieved when academic communities of integrity establish clear and transparent expectations, standards, and practices to support fairness in the interactions of students, faculty and administrators.

4. Respect

re·spect noun 1. High or special regard, esteem; the quality or state of being esteemed[4]

Respect is not a one-sided matter. It requires individuals within a community showing respect towards each other, but also towards themselves.  In other words, it is both an individual and a community matter.

Respecting oneself means taking on challenges, without compromising on values. While respect for others means appreciating and acknowledging opinions and recognising the need to test and challenge these opinions to refine ideas.

Students demonstrate respect when they pursue knowledge, valuing their opportunities and actively participating in their own education. In action this would be contributing to discussions, actively listening to others and achieving their best in their studies.

Faculty show respect to students by acknowledging them as individuals. Taking their ideas seriously and helping them develop these ideas further. And also, by providing students with honest feedback on their work and valuing their work.

Members of academic communities show respect by giving credit to the intellectual contributions of other scholars. This is done through proper identification and citation of sources.

Academic communities of integrity value the interactive, cooperative, participatory nature of learning. They honour, value and consider diverse opinions and ideas.

5. Responsibility

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty noun 1. The quality or state of being responsible; moral, legal[5]

To uphold the values of integrity, both individuals and the community they are in have a role to play. Every member of an academic community is accountable, not only to themselves but also to each other – to protect the integrity of their academic institution.

When the responsibility is shared, it drives change. Communities can move others to uphold the academic integrity of the group. To be responsible is not just about doing the right thing, it is also about standing up against wrong; resisting negative peer pressure and to set an example to others. A responsible individual can hold him or herself accountable for their actions. And to encourage others to do the same.

A responsible faculty creates classroom and institutional policies but also communicates what is expected of students. They are acting responsibly by adhering to the guidelines of their own policies.

Students should act responsibly, by making sure they understand these policies and then follow them accordingly.

Responsible institutions ensure that processes align with policies and the institution’s mission and vision.

Academic communities of integrity rest upon foundations of personal accountability coupled with the willingness of individuals and groups to lead by example, uphold mutually agreed-upon standards, and take action when they encounter wrongdoing.

6. Courage

Courage cour·age noun 1. The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty [6]

Last, but not least, we have courage. In a sense, courage is a quality or the character of a person. It, therefore, differs from the values described above. But, each value listed contributes to building the capacity to be courageous. In other words, acting in line with one’s values despite being afraid.

Yet again, each member of the academic community and the community itself, need to have the courage to hold each other accountable to the five fundamental values listed previously.  This in turns creates a culture of academic integrity.

Members of an academic community must therefore learn to make decisions based on the values listed above (demonstrating integrity). For this to have an impact, they need to have the necessary courage to act on these decisions.

It is only through courage that one can create a community that is responsible, respectful, trustworthy, fair and honest – and strong enough to stand up for their beliefs, no matter the challenges they may face.


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[1] International Center for Academic Integrity [ICAI]. (2021). The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity. (3rd ed.). www.academicintegrity.org/the-fundamental-valuesof-academic-integrity
[2] merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honest, accessed 03 Sept. 2020
[3] merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trust, accessed 15 Sept. 2020
[4] merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respect, accessed 15 Sept. 2020
[5] merriam-webster.com/dictionary/responsibility, accessed 15 Sept. 2020
[6] merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage, accessed 15 Sept. 2020

Other Sources Consulted: