A report published yesterday by QAA explores the growing threat to UK higher education from custom essay writing services, or ‘essay mills’. It looks at how these services operate, gives examples from their websites, and highlights the claims they make, in particular their guarantees of being ‘plagiarism free’. QAA was commissioned to carry out this research by the government.
The report includes a series of recommendations and specific actions it will take to begin to tackle the promotion and use of essay mill services. For example, to:
- work with government to consider the introduction of new legal and/or regulatory powers to prohibit or regulate the activities of custom essay websites, for example, making it an offence to aid or enable individuals to commit acts of academic dishonesty for financial gain
- take a global approach to informing new regulation, for example, looking at the impact of the legislation introduced by New Zealand in 2011 that makes it illegal to advertise or provide third-party assistance to cheat, including imposing fines of over £5,000
- clamp down on the promotion of essay writing sites by securing agreements with traditional and online advertising services not to carry their adverts, and outlawing direct approaches to students on campus
- increase university and college staff’s understanding of the threat posed by this form of cheating, amend the way assessment is designed (to reduce the scope for cheating), and improve detection and penalties for cheating
- educate students on why paying other people to write their essays is unacceptable, and the likely consequences work with international quality assurance bodies through QAA’s established networks on a global approach to tackling this form of cheating.
The report can be accessed here: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/publications/information-and-guidance/publication?PubID=3107#.V7WLPqNwZaQ