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UK universities to join in crackdown against essay-cheat websites

Tue 21 Feb 2017

Essay mill

Universities in the UK have been asked to support a government-led crackdown against websites providing essay plagiary services to students.

Currently, it is the responsibility of individual institutions to implement their own policies against plagiarism in line with the national Quality Code for Higher Education, but Jo Johnson, UK Universities Minister, has now announced the launch of a nationwide initiative to tackle online academic fraud.

Johnson said that the higher education watchdog the Quality Assurance Agency, the National Union of Students, and Universities UK, which represents university vice-chancellors, had been asked to collectively draw up a guidance system to fight against the problem.

Under the proposal, the QAA will investigate ways to prevent online advertising of essay mill websites and impose tough penalties, including expulsion, for students who are found to have cheated using the services.

A further punishment could involve placing a mark against the student’s academic record, which would reduce their chances of studying at master’s level for example. The Department of Education is also considering additional sanctions, such as fines and prosecution, but this would require legislative action.

‘This form of cheating is unacceptable and every university should have strong policies and sanctions in place to detect and deal with it,’ said Johnson. ‘Essay mill websites threaten to undermine the high quality reputation of a UK degree so it is vital that the sector works together to address this in a consistent and robust way,’ he added.

The voluntary measures will be introduced for the academic year 2017/2018, supporting the establishment of a UK-wide standard for universities addressing essay mill cheats.

Research revealed in a QAA report in 2016 found that at least 100 essay mill sites operate in the UK, offering custom written essays for students to use as their own. The paper warned that the issue was a ‘growing threat to UK higher education.’

It added that the websites are often providing plagiarism services with costs ranging from £200 to £6,750, and many are promoting ‘plagiarism free guarantees’ – or essays tested against plagiarism detection software.


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