Academic integrity

Integrity is not a component of ethics, integrity is much more

What is wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it.

Right is still right, even if no one else is doing it.

W. Penn

The term “integrity” has its roots in French and Latin (14th century). Originally, the term was used meaning “innocence, blamelessness; chastity, purity” derived from Old French integrité or directly from Latin integritatem (nominative integritas) “soundness, wholeness, completeness”, figuratively “purity, correctness, blamelessness” from integer “whole”. The first known use in English is from the year 1450.

Integrity is one of the most important and frequently cited virtue terms. It is also perhaps the most perplexing. For example, while it is sometimes used virtually synonymously with ‘moral,’ we also at times distinguish acting morally from acting with integrity. Integrity refers to a quality of a person’s character; however, there are other uses of the term. When it is applied to objects, integrity refers to the wholeness, intactness or purity of a thing/institution—meanings that are sometimes carried over when it is applied to people. Integrity is also attributed to various parts or aspects of a person’s life. We speak of attributes such as professional, intellectual and artistic integrity.[1]

Integrity = forefront of our mission and operations

“We must work to ensure that we are putting truth – and integrity – at the forefront of our mission and operations. Academic and research integrity cannot be a side project or an afterthought. Integrity and ethics must be central to everything we do and every decision we make.”[2]

Integrity and a car – what do they have in common?

A car is a system. It consists of chassis, engine, wheels, fuel tank, steering wheel, gearbox etc. A car is a system made of different components whose functions and activities complement each other and enable the operation of the car.

I also perceive integrity as a system. Integrity is a system of applying ethical and related principles. Ethical principles are components of integrity. Integrity is not a component of ethical principles. Integrity is not and cannot be its own component, just like a car is not and cannot be its own component. That is the logic.

Integrity perception

There are many definitions of integrity and, as a result, there is a wide range how integrity is perceived. You can find several universities and international institutions that have placed integrity among ethical principles on their websites. The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) did not make this mistake. They defined academic integrity as adherence to a subset of ethical principles and academic integrity does not belong to this subset.

“The International Center for Academic Integrity defines academic integrity as a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. From these values flow principles of behaviour that enable academic communities to translate ideals to action.”[3]

Integrity is much more than ethical principles themselves, it is a new quality expressed in a way of accepting and adhering to ethical and related principles. European Network of Academic Integrity (ENAI) offers more general definition (in comparison to ICAI) of academic integrity in the Glossary for Academic Integrity: “Compliance with ethical and professional principles, standards and practices by individuals or institutions in education, research and scholarship.”[4]

It should be taken into account that interpretation and perception of integrity and misconduct related terms are culture-bound[5].

Integrity and culture

Liddicoat et al. (2003) in the “Report on intercultural language learning“ define culture as “a complex system of concepts, attitudes, values, beliefs, conventions, behaviours, practices, rituals and lifestyles of the people who make up a cultural group, as well as the artefacts they produce and the institutions they create.”5 One may say that there are similarities in the definition of culture and integrity.

A huge challenge

One of the roles of educational institutions is to form personalities with strong character and intellect. Integrity is irreplaceable in this context. Peaceful coexistence, education, sustainable progress, health of nations, environmentally-friendly production and services, society without hunger, material and spiritual poverty – these are just some important areas where the potential of personalities with strong character and intellect may sparkle for the welfare of mankind.

”Character education was traditionally a fundamental part of the curriculum in classical education, and it was part of the medieval baccalaureate. According to Manly P. Hall in a lecture about education, in the European past, it was understood that a person must have a sufficiently developed sense of character and integrity before they were fit to receive higher intellectual and religious knowledge.” Emphasis on character building and personal integrity has gradually decreased.[6]

Is character education a fundamental part of the curriculum today as it was traditionally in classical education?

Educational institutions must not be alone in dealing with this challenge. It is a challenge for families, for the whole educational infrastructure, for society, for nations, for countries, for the whole human race.

Institutional integrity

It is not straightforward to manage institutional integrity. All tasks required to achieve its objectives must respect the framework of integrity policies, processes and procedures at all institutional levels. Integrity policies, processes and procedures are an inseparable and significant part of the whole set of functions/activities within an institution that work together for the aim of the institution.

To walk the integrity route means to walk a more difficult and uncomfortable path, especially in times of promoting, building and implementing integrity culture.

“When we observe the life of an institution, we see (too) many examples of people choosing comfort over courage. Comfort is a nice word, but that comfort is really just cowardice in disguise. To be sure, cowardice isn’t as nice a word, but it’s more accurate.”[7]

Issues of plagiarism, misconduct, ethics and integrity defined and explained

Definitions of plagiarism, misconduct, ethics, integrity and related terms can be found in the Glossary for Academic Integrity (freely downloadable). In case you need to know more about the glossary definitions then General Guidelines for Academic Integrity (freely downloadable too) will serve you as a supporting document for the glossary. The guidelines describe and explain the definitions of terms in the dictionary, they help to build common understanding of integrity issues not only in the academic sphere but also in business.[8] [9]

Glossary for Academic Integrity and General Guidelines for Academic Integrity are the outputs of the international project European Network for Academic Integrity (ENAI) within the Erasmus+ program. The project ENAI aims foremost to raise awareness in the matters of plagiarism, academic ethics, scholarly values and academic integrity. ENAI focuses not only on students, but on the entire academic community (including professors, researchers, post-docs, PhDs, administration staff and management, academic ethics committees, etc.).9

The other source of information concerning plagiarism, misconduct, contract cheating, ethics and integrity could be videos from the event for public “Building a Culture of Academic Integrity in Education“ (eight themes in four workshops) that prepared ENAI with the support of Council of Europe. The workshops took place at Riga Technical University on October 17, 2018.

  1. Workshop “Technology enhanced approaches for creating academic integrity awareness”
  2. Workshop “Integrity in the Classroom” with presentations on:
    • Academic integrity workshop for secondary school teachers
    • How to deal with contract cheating
  3. Workshop “Plagiarism awareness” with presentations on:
    • Technical vs. Policy Aspect of Plagiarism
    • Avoiding Plagiarism in Academic Writing
  4. Workshop “Tools supporting academic integrity” with presentations on:
    • Experiences in Establishing National Plagiarism Detection Systems
      • National Barrier to Plagiarism is Bearing Fruit
      • Academic Integrity and Plagiarism on Slovenian Academic Institutions
    • Educational Resources for Plagiarism Prevention


I would like to thank Mr. Matúš Benkovič (certified translator) for his help with the proofreading.


[1] Cox, Damian, La Caze, Marguerite and Levine, Michael, “Integrity”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
[2] Gallant, T. Fake News, Truth & the Higher Education Imperative
[3] Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity
[4] Tauginienė, L, Gaižauskaitė, I, Glendinning, I, Kravjar, J, Ojsteršek, M, Ribeiro, L, Odiņeca, T, Marino, F, Cosentino, M, Sivasubramaniam, S. Glossary for Academic Integrity. ENAI Report 3G [online].
[5] Loreta Tauginienė, L. et al. Enhancing Taxonomies of Academic Integrity and Misconduct (in preparation)
[6] Goldrick, L. (2013). Why Character Is More Important Than Intellect
[7] Villemure, R. Courage: a quality of the heart
[8] Kravjar, J. (2018). Issues of plagiarism, misconduct, ethics and integrity defined and explained: Glossary and Guidelines
[9] Tauginienė, L, Ojsteršek, M, Foltýnek, T, Marino, F, Cosentino, M, Gaižauskaitė, I, Glendinning, I, Sivasubramaniam, S, Razi, S, Ribeiro, L, Odiņeca, T., Trevisiol, O. (2018). ENAI Report 3A [online]. General Guidelines for Academic Integrity

Július Kravjar

Július Kravjar works at Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information. He is member of the board of European Network for Academic Integrity.

Will integrity be the hard currency of the future?

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Featured image credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 by Nick Youngson

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2 thoughts on “Integrity is not a component of ethics, integrity is much more”

  1. Excellent write up Július! To build up students academic integrity knowledge, schools and administrators should inject this topic into the curriculum wherever it’s fit in. Teachers should be the models for students and school should organize PD for their staff to build a better understanding of how to implement academic integrity across the school and how to combat academic misconducts of any type in academia and beyond.

    1. Yes Zakir, you are right. The school infrastructure should be well prepared to support integrity (rules, directives, committees, …).