NEW YORK — As many as 125 students at Harvard University are being probed for allegedly cheating in a final exam at the elite institution, administrators said Thursday.

The official university site reported that a large number of undergraduates "may have inappropriately collaborated on answers, or plagiarized classmates' responses, on the final exam for the course."

An initial investigation by the Harvard College Administration Board of more than 250 final exams resulted in cases involving "nearly half the students in the class," the site said.

Neither the course, nor the students were identified in the scandal, which would be one of the biggest at the Ivy League college.

Michael Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, vowed to act.

"We take academic integrity very seriously because it goes to the heart of our educational mission," he said in a statement. "Academic dishonesty cannot and will not be tolerated at Harvard."

"These allegations, if proven, represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends," Harvard University President Drew Faust said.

"We must deal with this fairly and through a deliberative process."

Harvard, a college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near Boston, is one of the most exclusive universities in the world, with students paying about $63,000 (50,000 euros) per year to attend.

[Ed. note: The course involved in the incident was "Introduction to Congress," according to the Harvard Crimson.]