The research aims to define the scope and challenges of intellectual property rights protection in higher schools of Ukraine and offer recommendations to address those for higher education officials and university leaders. The findings of the research rely on the results of an anonymous expert survey conducted among non-law students of two institutions of higher education using a specially designed questionnaire. They reveal a significantly low level of students’ awareness and knowledge of intellectual property rights, academic integrity, and protection thereof, which undermines the internal education quality. At the same time, there exists a high demand for receiving the relevant knowledge within the university programmes the students are enrolled in. It, therefore, seems expedient to design and include “Intellectual Property and Academic Integrity” as a subject in the curricula of higher educational institutions of Ukraine to be taught at the first year of training, and develop a special course in the fundamentals of intellectual property and academic writing to build the students’ relevant competences. Similarly, it is essential that the teaching staff should be trained accordingly and have the relevant powers and tools to impart and enforce academic integrity rights protection.

1. Introduction

Higher education in Ukraine is developing with a view to create an educational environment that would be free of academic dishonesty and intellectual property rights infringements. This finds confirmation in the substantial changes that have recently occurred in the legislation of Ukraine regulating the educational relations. Thus, the laws of Ukraine “On Education” adopted in 2017 and amended in 2020 [1] and “On Higher Education” adopted in 2014 and amended in 2020 [2] compel higher education institutions operating in the territory of Ukraine to ensure internal education quality, including by creating a system of and mechanisms for ensuring academic integrity. Provision and receipt of adequate educational services is the basis for a person’s balanced development, nurture of his or her creative talents and skills, and cultivation of competences that meet today’s requirements of society. The abovementioned legal documents, in accordance with the world’s best practices and Bologna Process principles and in fulfilment of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement [3], regulate provision of higher education institutions with autonomy by authorising the latter to determine the scope and content of their curricula within the corresponding programmes and by making them responsible for educational quality assurance as the main criterion of each institution’s competitiveness. Therefore, this autonomy extends the opportunities and potential of higher education in provision of the tailored educational activity. Developing an internal control system as a primary constituent thereof in academic dishonesty prevention must therefore become a first step in training specialists who will be competitive at the labour market of Ukraine and abroad.

Today, reformation is in transition, which conditions the importance of analysis and elimination of shortcomings in the proposed mechanism of university administration, study of the challenges arising within the corresponding educational environments, and creation of the grounds for cultivation of corporate and legal culture at institutions of higher education.

This research focuses on observance and protection of intellectual property rights, particularly, the copyright, by higher education participants at the institutions of higher education and adherence to the academic integrity norms. It also elaborates on the state of their protection at the present stage and offers possible solutions to such problem prevention and elimination.

The research relevance arose from the analysis of the norms of the current legislation of Ukraine, scientific endeavours of national and international scholars, the results of the expert survey conducted among the non-law students, and accounts for the problems resulting from digitalisation of education for the purpose of both training itself and publication of research results for their wider dissemination.

New approaches to provision of quality educational services and information and communications technologies have contributed to broadening of the opportunities available for the education participants in terms of their access to knowledge. However, it has also created a wide range of opportunities for copying and recreating the author’s studies and know-how and committing other actions that infringe intellectual property rights, threaten such infringements to occur, or create other negative consequences that may be viewed as a result of imperfections in the legal regulations in this regard, or arise from lack of the relevant knowledge among the education participants.

An important step in cultivating legal culture in higher education participants is establishing the so-called academic responsibility for academic dishonesty and implementing a mechanism for its enforcement. However, the effectiveness of this mechanism has not yet been tested or confirmed in practice. Besides, undecided remain quite a few issues: the content and implementation of the legislation provisions in practice. The academic responsibility is not a form of legal responsibility and can be applied to the infringer along with the administrative, criminal, or civil ones if the actions bear signs of such types of offences under the current legislation.

Understanding the necessity to create an effective system for protection of intellectual property rights in Ukraine, the President of Ukraine signed the Decree “On Creation of a Higher Court for Intellectual Property” No. 299/2017 as of September 29, 2017. This Higher Court is being created now and will cover cases dealing with infringements of intellectual property rights, which it will consider as court of cassation.

Today, protection of intellectual property rights and promotion of academic integrity are the focus of attention among the scientists and practitioners in various fields, particularly, lawyers, economists, educators, and administrators. The results of the intellectual (creative) activity are the driving force in the country’s economic development, creation of a society of knowledge, shaping of a scientific thought, and cultivation of respect for the rights of other parties in the innovation activity.

This research aims to define the scope, content, and challenges of intellectual property rights protection in higher schools of Ukraine, to identify the most common infringements and violations to be prevented and looked out for, to determine the difference between infringements of intellectual property rights and violations of academic integrity rules, the latter being closely related to the former, and to provide recommendations for higher education officials and university leaders to improve education quality and its assurance.

The urgency of the topic and the relevance of the tools within this research correlates with the study conducted in the EU counties back in 2013 addressing the plagiarism policies in higher education [4]. It analysed the frequency of copyright infringements, namely, plagiarism, as well as ways of their detection and prevention, antiplagiarism mechanisms used by the institutions of higher education and their effectiveness, and online plagiarism detection mechanisms in 27 EU countries. This project aimed at determining how this complex problem of students’ plagiarism is being solved in Europe [5].

Ukraine had a similar project, too. Its results were presented in July 2015 under the title “Academic Culture of Ukrainian Studentry: Main Factors of Establishment and Development”. Its findings rely on the sociological survey conducted among 374 faculty members and 1,928 students (eight focus groups in different regions of Ukraine) of higher educational institutions. The questions there majorly aimed at revealing the students’ attitude to obtaining higher education, its goal, and desired outcomes, with a few of them focused on determining plagiarism practices that students use in their studies, the faculty’s and the students’ awareness of plagiarism, the main factors thereof among students, and means of detecting students’ academic dishonesty their instructors have at their disposal [6]. Yet, that project happened before the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” and the amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Higher Education”, which now include the notions of academic plagiarism and responsibility for it for the first time in the national practice. It, therefore, requires distinguishing between plagiarism and academic plagiarism.

Today, Ukraine has an ongoing project for academic integrity promotion: Strengthening Academic Integrity in Ukraine Project (SAIUP) [7]. It is implemented by the American Council for International Education with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and under the auspices of the US Embassy in Ukraine. Its aim is to use the joint experience of the US and Ukraine for development and implementation of a four-year plan of actions consisting in promoting the practical value and importance of academic integrity in students, faculty, and administrators of the education institutions of Ukraine, providing them with resources and a plan of actions for their active engagement in strengthening academic integrity in the educational environment.

Thus, with very few isolated projects on the matter, the problems of academic integrity and observance of the intellectual property rights in Ukraine remain underexplored. The research in the field majorly relates to commercial projects or those funded by international organisations, with far not all problems adequately tackled in the field of intellectual property right protection and academic integrity rules for participants of the educational process. However, reflecting the actual state of things in the relevant field, research in such directions contributes to implementation of effective reforms. Hence, lack thereof conditioned our choice of the topic, tools, and means of information acquisition and analysis within our research.

The problem of intellectual property rights protection is mostly regarded from the legal angle, with some aspects addressed in the works of economic scientists. That in mind, it is important to have an integrated study of the current state of intellectual property rights protection through the prism of the intersectoral nature of their use and protection in the system of higher education. This is dictated by the importance of ensuring observance of legality of copyright assets use in the system of education, particularly, higher education, and the need for students to acquire the relevant knowledge in IP rights and academic integrity.

We believe that reformation of higher education in Ukraine should account for today’s requirements of the labour market and the need for Ukraine to develop as a state ruled by law and to nurture respect for use of the intellectual capital. The learning process consists in mastering both the competences within the chosen profession and those specific for ensuring the professional activity with observance of the rules and norms regulating intellectual property rights. That should rely on cultivation of respect for the academic integrity rules in students majoring in different specialities.

Harust and Pavlenko [8] define the essence of academic integrity as “intellectual honesty”, i.e., decency in the use of information that gives grounds for conclusions and findings in research, as well as other means of searching for and obtaining knowledge.

2. Materials and Methods

For the purpose of this research, an anonymous pilot expert survey was designed and conducted, whose aim was to obtain information about students’ knowledge in academic and scientific integrity and intellectual property rights protection in the academic environment.

The results provided in this research have been obtained using an expert survey questionnaire aimed at collecting personal opinions of the respondents and specifically designed by Doctor Olha Polotska (Head of English Language Department, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Kharkiv, Ukraine).

The non-law students were surveyed from two higher educational institutions: Ukrainian Engineering Pedagogics Academy (UEPA) and Kharkiv National Pharmaceutical University (KhNPhU). They comprised 69 students majoring in pedagogical and pharmaceutical sciences. The choice of these two institutions of higher education was conditioned by the following reasons:(1)The Law of Ukraine “On Education” adopted in 2017 for the first time provides for the need to observe academic integrity rules, copyright, and related rights in educational institutions of different levels [1]. Moreover, the law also requires that the teaching staff and students should provide reliable information on the methods and results of their own research and creative activities. This implicates that future teaching staff in various areas should be among the primary receivers of the relevant knowledge as they are the ones to take it to their students upon graduation and entry into professional life.(2)UEPA is a multidirectional institution of higher education that combines both humanitarian and technical education and prepares not only engineers, but also engineering educators. Both will need knowledge on copyright and intellectual property to apply and promote it in their professional and/or scientific endeavours. Moreover, it is one of the few institutions of higher education in Ukraine that has a specialised department for intellectual property and an educational programme on intellectual property management for non-law students.(3)The choice of KhNPhU students relates primarily to the specific nature of their future professional activity and the level of infringements of intellectual property rights occurring therein, which is the highest in pharmacy practice [9]. Deriving from adhering to intellectual property rights, particularly, copyright, academic integrity is an important value to cultivate and promote among pharmacy students to reduce the number of such infringements, prevent them from happening, and ensure high quality of the pharmacy practice in Ukraine.

The choice of the respondents’ group was conditioned by the need to reveal the specific knowledge in the category of specialists who, in their professional activity, are most often authors themselves or use intellectual property objects without being professional experts in this field. The respondents’ age range was between 19 and 35; 25% aged 22; 22% aged 23; 15% aged 20; 12% aged 19 and 24, respectively; 9% aged 21; 1% aged 25, 28, and 35, respectively. The female respondents constituted 73.44%, and the male respondents were 26.56%.

The survey was anonymous, and its results were then analysed and summarised to enable the following findings.

3. Results and Discussion

To begin with, the survey revealed that only 78.26% of the students are clear about why they are obtaining higher education in the first place, which means that every fifth is not personally invested and motivated to excel having no particular goal to pursue.

This open-ended question enabled us to determine the main motives underlying the purpose of students’ enrolment in higher education programmes. They are (in the order of popularity) as follows: landing a highly paid job (29.69%), ensuring swift career advancement (20.4%), becoming educated (16.6%), learning a new profession (9.26%), development or self-development (7.4%), becoming a good professional (7.4%), teaching at an education institution (1.85%), getting a higher education diploma (1.85%), and “no reason in particular” (1.85%).

Although the last two reasons (“getting a higher education diploma” and “no reason in particular”) are raising a red flag, they make up only less than 4%, and the majority of the answers are professionally driven in one way or another. This suggests that the choice to pursue higher education is mostly conscious and that students are likely to be personally invested in obtaining quality rather than formal education when they are studying under the chosen programmes.

This assumption finds confirmation in the answers given by 92.75% of the respondents about the willingness to learn about scientific and academic integrity, which manifested in 81.25% of students (see Table 1 for more detail).

The above results indicate that about half of the students are willing to acquire knowledge on scientific and academic integrity at lectures, and the other half, during practical classes or within special courses. In other words, they all see its acquisition as part of their curricula, which suggests the expediency to include this knowledge as individual disciplines or as part of the existing disciplines in the curricula for non-law students as it is not only important and useful for students but is also in demand among the students themselves.

Such knowledge will also enable students, particularly those obtaining pedagogical education, to build relevant competences to effectively carry out their professional activities afterwards. Higher educational institutions are of strategic significance in development of the legal culture and legal awareness of young people. The quality of educational services depends on the rates of the knowledge society development, the effectiveness of innovative technologies implementation, the state’s entry to a new economic level. Moreover, the professional activity of pedagogical students aims to impart the knowledge acquired during their training to their students in institutions of secondary education. This is a stimulating factor for higher educational institutions under autonomy to build competences that meet the modern requirements of society. As Gimenez et al. [10] pointed out in their work “Problems of Teaching and Studying Intellectual Property,” inclusion of an intellectual property subject at different levels of education is not only intended to equip students with a set of specific skills directly related to their future professional activity but also, in a broader sense, aims to develop a culture of respect for and understanding of the value of creative ideas in the context of the knowledge economy.

The Intellectual Property Awareness Network (IPAN), the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and the National Union of Students (NUS) conducted a study of the above matter with the findings presented in the report “Student Attitudes towards Intellectual Property” in 2012 [11]. Their conclusions rely on the results of an online survey of more than 2,000 UK students enrolled in higher education and further education courses. As defined in the study, “as the use of electronic resources has expanded in recent years, plagiarism has become an increasingly important issue within UK education institutions […]. This research suggests that, although a focus on plagiarism has helped to raise the profile of IP in academic institutions, to date this has not been capitalised on to promote other aspects of IP teaching. There is a need for better support for both academics and students in learning and teaching about IP” [9] (p. 8).

Their research also reveals the students’ desire to have an intellectual property subject included among their academic disciplines as early as possible in their training.

Referring to the experience of the developed countries, it is worth mentioning that the problem of teaching intellectual property as a subject, especially for non-law students, is relevant beyond Ukraine, too, as “teaching across disciplines requires understanding the relevance of law to the context of the discipline in which you are working” [12] (p. 9).

In the early XXI century, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) began to actively seek out solutions for intellectual property education. Particularly, on June 30 to July 1, 2005, in Geneva, Switzerland, the WIPO organised the International Symposium on Intellectual Property Education and Research. One of the key challenges addressed there was the fact that many countries “lack qualified personnel with the knowledge and skills of the IP system” required to transform the “nation’s creative and innovative resources” into “valuable economic assets” [13] (p. 20). The panellists and participants unanimously agreed on the currently insufficient “allocation of resources for IP education and research at universities, as well as at secondary educational institutions” offering among the solutions thereto: inclusion of IP in the universities’ curricula, “more integration of IP into such disciplines as economics, business, trade, sciences, engineering, and culture”, starting “IP education at an earlier stage, covering the younger generations, with a view to fostering a culture which respects creativity and strives to curb piracy” [13] (p. 20-21).

The International Conference on Building Respect for Intellectual Property-Stimulating Innovation and Creativity co-organised by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government (SMPG) and WIPO on November 17–18, 2016, intended to foster proper understanding of and respect for intellectual property across all sectors of society [14].

An important aspect in ensuring education quality in Japan is introduction of system education based on cultivation in each Japanese citizen of the human capital for intellectual property development and use [15].

Thus, the world practices confirm the need to ensure acquisition of the intellectual property competence by students for the purpose of building a society of knowledge and competitive specialists in the relevant fields.

One of the types of academic integrity violations is “cribbing”, or cheating, which the Law of Ukraine “On Education” defines as “doing written works using external sources of information other than those allowed for use, in particular, during assessment of learning outcomes” [1].

Alarmingly, our survey revealed that the overwhelming majority of students resort to cribbing, with only about 16% claiming to refrain from such activities. Moreover, about 90% allow others’ cribbing, with only 12% not (see Table 2 for more detail). This is a sure indicator of almost nonexisting awareness of the wrongness of this activity and its consequences. It also suggests that such activity is disregarded by the teaching staff, who should be the first line of defence in matters of ensuring academic integrity and intellectual property right protects in their classes.

Cribbing, or cheating, indicates a violation of academic integrity, which negatively affects the quality of higher education. Having analysed the studies conducted in Ukraine and abroad, we can agree with Josien and Broderick [16] that this phenomenon of academic dishonesty is one of the most widespread academic integrity violations that has no effective solution thereto. It agrees with our findings, which revealed that 31.88% of students use others’ works and ideas in their own creative works (report papers, reports, speeches, etc.); 40.58% do that partially; 27.54% claim to do that not. This statistics is not alarming per se. However, compared to the answers about proper referencing for those works and ideas, the gravity of the situation becomes obvious considering that only 53.62% reference others’ materials and ideas that they borrow in their own works, while 28.99% do that only occasionally, and 14.49% do not bother (2.30% refrained from answering). This indicates a far insufficient level of students’ academic writing culture and intellectual property rights awareness, and, as a result, questionable quality of the education received and academic papers produced.

This attitude of students to execution of their assignments is clearly discerned in the answers they give to the question about how they work on such assignments. Namely, only about 40% claim to analyse and compare multiple sources to produce a report of their own (the responsible approach), while more than 55% either compile two or more sources, download the content of one source, or order the whole assignment as a paid service (see Table 3 for more detail). Thus, the majority of students violate the academic integrity rules and/or even infringe the intellectual property rights of others without giving it a second thought.

This picture is consistent with the answers to the question about the time spent on preparing a report paper: it takes about half the students from several days (33.33%) to more than a week (11.59%), and the other half from one day (23.19%) to merely one evening/night (31.88%). These results correlate with the number of the “responsible” and “irresponsible” students from the previous statistics.

Another worrying finding the survey revealed is that every other student committing academic integrity violations gets away with it. Only about 55% acknowledge getting a lower grade (score) for the paper executed with violations, while 45% of cases of academic dishonesty remain undetected, unaddressed, or ignored.

This brings about the question of needing to design and implement certain policies and a mechanism for detecting academic dishonesty and intellectual property rights violations at the national university level and training the teaching staff accordingly and equipping them with the relevant authority and tools.

Trying to look deeper into the core of such students’ disregard for academic honesty and intellectual property rights of others, the survey established that most students had difficulty distinguishing between academic integrity and plagiarism (only 40.58% could tell one from the other). About as many (44.93%) could correctly define use of any materials during an exam as academic dishonesty, while 23.19% attributed it to plagiarism and 18.84% to scientific dishonesty, and 13.04% refrained from answering. Similarly, only 39.13% of students could define academic plagiarism correctly, while 50.72% confused it with plagiarism and 6% with copyright infringements. The definition of compilation as an event violating the scientific and academic integrity was correct only in 36% of students’ answers, while 30.43% believed it to be an academic integrity violation; 26% did not regard it as such; and 7.25% could not answer the question. In their answers to the question if borrowings in scientific literature are plagiarism, only 43.48% said that those were not if appropriately referenced and cited. Correct definitions for other notions related to academic integrity and intellectual property rights protection came from even fewer students (see Table 4 for more detail).

Speaking of the purpose of the list of references at the end of any scientific piece, the majority (52.17%) said that it was necessary to confirm that the author had used the sources mentioned in the study; 21.74% indicated that this was given to enable the reader of the scientific piece to find and read the texts of the works from the list; 13.04% believe it to be a way of proving that there are like-minded authors in the scientific community; 10.15% think that there simply exists such a rule in the scientific community; 2.9% gave no answer.

All that confirms our suspicion that students do not understand the meaning of and the difference between the various concepts and types of academic dishonesty, and therefore are often unaware of the fact that they are committing an act of academic dishonesty or plagiarism, or are infringing somebody’s intellectual property rights.

Interestingly, students themselves do not regard lack of knowledge in academic integrity or intellectual property rights as the underlying reason for intellectual property rights infringements. Instead, they believe the main reasons to be open access to knowledge via the Internet (36.23%), individuals’ unwillingness or inability to create own intellectual product (28.99%), and lack of an adequate legal framework (27.54%). The distribution of votes for each reason is almost equal, which suggests that each of these reasons needs to be addressed during the students’ training and requires preventive measures to be implemented.

These findings are consistent with the information of the Canadian Library Association, which cites poor or no awareness of the rules of proper referencing, poor understanding of the difference between paraphrasing and citation, viewing of all online materials as public knowledge, or fear of failing deadlines or tests among the reasons for plagiarism among students [17].

When the copyright commences is another aspect that lacks understanding. For most, it is associated with completion of all the legal formalities, publication of works, or payments of copyright fees (Table 5).

As for the principles by which plagiarism detection software operates, in the opinion of 34.78% of the respondents, phrases such as “Constitution of Ukraine” and “Noah’s Ark”, names of higher educational institutions, etc. will get flagged as plagiarism, while 31.88% are convinced that those will be treated as set expressions, and 27.54% think that such phrases will not set up alerts.

Finally, essential for our research was the question about the factors contributing to violations of scientific and academic integrity. Therefore, the students were asked to range the following factors in the order of their significance starting from the least favourable for violations of academic integrity rules:(1)Misunderstanding of what plagiarism is(2)Instructors’ neutral or tolerant attitude towards plagiarism(3)Lack of clear and universal rules for assessment of the texts originality and their effect on the total mark (score) for the written work(4)Students’ overload with written assignments in different subjects to be completed in a short time(5)Lack of understanding among students of the necessity and purpose of executing written papers

The answers to the above question were analysed using the significance index (Isig) (ranging from +1 to −1, where +1 is the least favourable factor and −1 is the most favourable one), which was calculated by the following formula:where X is the mean value of the variants given in the answers.

For better understanding of the results (Table 6), it is important to point out that the highest value of the index corresponds to the lowest degree of impact on commitment of violations of scientific and academic integrity.

This pilot survey was intended to determine if the scope of academic dishonesty and intellectual rights violations is extensive enough a problem to undermine the education quality and palpable and substantial enough to press the educational community in the country to action. The above findings prove that the problem is acute with most students having little, if any, knowledge of or regard for academic integrity and others’ intellectual rights protection.

Moreover, this is happening against the background of the teaching staff’ indifference, unwillingness, or inability to detect and prevent academic dishonesty in their classroom and cultivate the atmosphere of academic integrity and respect of intellectual property rights.

4. Conclusions

This pilot survey was intended to determine if the scope of academic dishonesty and intellectual rights violations is extensive enough a problem to undermine the education quality and palpable and substantial enough to press the educational community in the country to action. The research proved that problem is of global concern, but in Ukraine, its studies have been scarce.

The survey confirmed our suspicions that the quality of higher education received may be threatened and undermined by academic dishonesty practiced by students in execution of their written assignments. It showed that the overwhelming majority of students not only commit acts of academic dishonesty, violate intellectual property rights, stoop to plagiarism, and cribbing, but also see no problem in such behaviour. They do not regard such actions as offences or harmful to anyone. This indicates a very low level of understanding of the problem and the essence of the categorical framework of academic dishonesty.

Fortunately, most students are open to learning more about academic integrity and intellectual property rights protection within their training, and the new legislative norms, especially those providing higher educational institutions with autonomy to decide the content of their curricula, have the potential for introducing special courses and subjects aimed at raising awareness of academic integrity and intellectual property rights protection among their students and to implement mechanisms and policies to prevent and enforce academic honesty in the educational process for the purpose of better quality of higher education received.

Another important aspect to the problem of academic integrity violations and intellectual property rights infringements is the teaching staffs’ inability or unwillingness to detect such violations and prevent them from happening. This leaves most of such cases unpunished and disregarded encouraging students to continue and extend the scope of their academic dishonesty in their academic assignments.

Considering the above, we believe that it is essential to include “Intellectual Property and Academic Integrity,” at least as an elective subject, in the curricula of higher educational institutions of Ukraine, which should be taught at the first year of training. Moreover, it is expedient to develop a special course in the fundamentals of intellectual property and academic writing to build the students’ relevant competences in this field. It is also expedient to provide IP qualification enhancement for the teaching staff equipping them with the relevant knowledge, resources, and tools to prevent and enforce academic honesty in their classrooms. This could be done through special trainings or programmes of professional development.

We hope that the findings of this pilot research will press the decision-makers in higher education to action to ensure that the professionals they graduate nationwide have proper skills and knowledge that are not undermined by their consistent practice of presenting others’ ideas as their own to succeed.

Data Availability

The data used to support the findings of the study can be made available from the corresponding author.


This article is a result of research conducted by the members of the public organization “Innovation for Education” in cooperation with the Department of Creative Pedagogics and Intellectual Property of the Ukrainian Engineering and Pedagogics Academy (Kharkiv, Ukraine). The survey results presented in this survey are based on the answers collected with a questionnaire authored by Doctor Olha Polotska, Head of the English Language Department of the School of Foreign Languages, Karazin Kharkiv National University.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.