Law student charged with hacking into uni computer system to boost his marks

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By Katie King on

Aussie wannabe lawyer’s alleged desperation for top grades could scupper career


A final year law student at a top Australian uni has been charged with 14 criminal offences for hacking into his uni’s computer system and boosting his exam grades — though he looked on track to pass anyway.

Matthew Wilkinson (pictured below), 24, is reported to have broken into a staff area using a lock-picking device and a staff ID card, which he claims he did not steal but found. Once there, he allegedly logged into the uni’s electronic grading system and upped his exam marks.


But using hidden cameras the uni’s security team rumbled what they allege was a mischievous plan, and Wilkinson was arrested.

Just months away from completing his degree at the prestigious TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland, the student was on track to pass his degree, but was not scoring top marks, reports local media. Police allege that he was motivated to bump up his grades to high distinctions to improve his job prospects.

The Hunger Games mentality of the average UK law student seems to extend well beyond the continent into the higher education system of our commonwealth cousin. The Australian legal market is extremely competitive: a record number of law students are graduating from Australian universities, leaving almost a quarter without full-time jobs.

If Wilkinson is found guilty, he is in serious trouble. According to the Queensland University deputy vice chancellor Joanne Wright:

If a student is found to have cheated then the impact on their future career is likely to be devastating.

Cheating is a serious matter and, says Wright, its effects are “far more damaging than failing a subject or course” — though Wilkinson was not on track to do that either.

The accused hacker has appeared briefly in Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with six offences of using a restricted computer without consent and four offences relating to fraud, including two counts of forgery.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Wilkinson’s lawyer, Nick Crawford, explained that the client’s plea has not yet been decided. He said:

The matter needs to be reviewed and we haven’t made any decision at this point.

The case has been adjourned to January next year.