independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Student jailed for attempt to bribe professor over failed dissertation

The 0.177 air pistol which student Yang Li, 26, had when he went to meet his professor at the University of Bath
The 0.177 air pistol which student Yang Li, 26, had when he went to meet his professor at the University of Bath

A failing student who offered his professor £5,000 in cash in a bid to pass his degree was jailed for 12 months today.

Desperate Yang Li, 26, had a loaded replica gun and the money in his pocket when he went to meet his professor at the University of Bath.

The Innovation and Technology Management masters student had been awarded a 37 per cent mark in his dissertation - three marks off the 40 per cent needed to pass.

Bristol Crown Court heard Li arranged to meet Professor Andrew Graves, head of the University's School of Management, to discuss his options after the result.

Professor Graves, who marked the dissertation, told Li he could resubmit the 12,000 word essay, appeal the mark or accept it and withdraw from the course.

But Li, who admitted a charge of bribery and possessing an imitation firearm at the court, told Professor Graves "I am a businessman" before placing £5,000 in cash on the table in front of him.

The court was told Li added: "There is a fourth option, you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won't bother you again."

Professor Graves asked Li to leave but as the student put the money away, a replica hand gun - loaded with six pellets - fell out of his pocket and on to the floor.

Judge Michael Longman told a weeping Li that the weapon caused "fear" and "alarm" to the respected professor at the meeting on 23 November last year.

The judge said: "You attempted to persuade a university professor to behave in such a way that if it had been successful you would have undermined the integrity of the universities in the UK and the legitimacy of degrees from universities here, the University of Bath in particular.

"Your bid to achieve a pass mark by offering what was a bribe to your professor was ill conceived to the point of being a spectacular mistake and one which was doomed to fail from the start."

Judge Longman sentenced Li to 12 months in prison for the bribery charge and six months to run concurrently for a charge of possessing an imitation firearm in a public place.

He ordered married Li, who comes from an "affluent" and "respected" family in China, to pay £4,880 in prosecution costs and a £120 surcharge.

Prosecuting, Mark Hollier said: "The final part of the course is for students to submit a dissertation of about 12,000 words. That had to be in by the first week of September. Mr Li's dissertation was submitted that September last year.

"It was marked by Professor Graves. The pass mark is 40 per cent and the mark awarded was 37 per cent ."

Li's dissertation mark was checked by external examiners from Oxford and Cambridge University and found to be correct, Mr Hollier added.

Defending Li, Blake James said Mr Li came from an affluent family in China, where his father is a respected government official and businessman.

Mr James said Li was not a "sham student" and had come to the UK in 2006 for a Computer Science degree at the University of Bath, which he passed.

Documents show Li was progressing well in his masters course until he failed the dissertation, he said.

At the time of the final module, Li was working for his father's firm, earning £25,000 a year with a bonus of £11,000, as well as studying.

"When he learned of the result of the dissertation it was a bitter blow to him," Mr James said.

"He genuinely felt he had done alright."

Mr James said Li was concerned he would not be able to move from his expiring student visa to a Tier 1 visa without passing his course. His current visa has now expired.

He said Li was used to carrying large amounts of cash and had the 0.177 air pistol, used for shooting practice, on his possession as he did not want to leave it in the car during the meeting.

Li sobbed in court - where his parents, wife and parents-in-law sat in the public gallery - as the sentence was handed down. He plans to return to China with his wife, also a University of Bath student, after his release.

Press Association

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