The university standards watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has urged Universities to use smarter cheating detection software and to block certain websites in a bid to stop students buying essays online and submitting them as their own.
Thousands of students are believed to be using ‘essay-mill’ websites, paying hundreds of pounds for the papers. The proposal from the QAA comes after universities minister Jo Johnson admitted there was a problem and called for advice to address the issues.
The QAA recommendations include blocking essay-mill websites, adopting smarter software to detect cheating, providing more support for struggling students and introducing a range of assessment methods to limit cheating.
Discussing the recommendations, Johnson said: “This form of cheating is unacceptable and pernicious. It not only undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don’t cheat … That is why I asked the Quality Assurance Agency to look at this issue and introduce new guidance for students and providers.”
Over 100 essay-mill websites were discovered by the QAA, with costs for PhD dissertation as much as £6,750.
“Paying someone else to write essays is wrong and could damage their career,” said Douglas Blackstock, chief executive of the QAA. “Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse.”
The QAA has asked for a consistent approach among higher education providers to help tackle the problem, with colleges and universities urged to record incidents of any kind of cheating so that the true scale of the problem can be uncovered.
“Universities take plagiarism and cheating extremely seriously,” said a spokesperson for Universities UK.
“Submitting work written by someone else is cheating and devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve their degrees … Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution’s disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university.”