Quality Assurance Agency Recommendations On Contract Cheating Attract Media Interest

The Quality Assurance Agency in the UK released a set of recommendations for universities and higher education providers discussing how they should be acting regarding the threat of contract cheating.

As taken straight from their press release, the guidelines recommend:

  • clear information for students on the risks of cheating, including academic misconduct being reported to relevant professional bodies
  • support for students to develop independent study skills, including academic writing
  • using a range of assessment methods to limit opportunities for cheating
  • blocking¬†essay mill sites and taking¬†action against essay mill advertising on campus
  • smarter detection, including new software and greater familiarity with students’ personal styles and capabilities
  • appropriate support for whistle blowing – to protect accuser as well as accused
  • student involvement on academic misconduct policies and panels.

The media picked up on the story, particularly within the UK.

The Guardian focused particularly on the recommendation for universities to block access to essay mills, taking quotes from several people prominent in the academic integrity field, myself included.

The Telegraph went for a story before the official report release, suggesting that lecturers were working for essay mills and helping students to cheat (but evidence to support this is rather limited).

I participated in live TV and radio interviews. You can see a clip from my appearance on BBC TV here:

I also contributed articles based around different aspects of the story. You can see coverage on the Conversation and discussion on LinkedIn.

As is so often the case, it’s interesting to see how the media in India have managed to turn this into a local story. The quotes assigned to me in that piece are from me, but they’ve gone through several years of recycling. It’s interesting how they continue to find ways to make them fit!

Students Warned Cheats Will Be Caught – The Courier

The Scottish Publication, the Courier, has reported on the trade in contract cheating across Fife and Tayside.

Students Warned Cheats Will Be CaughtThe report is interesting, as quotes are given from universities including St. Andrews, Abertay and Dundee, none of whom seem to believe that contract cheating is much of a problem.

The quotes also show that universities are confusing contract cheating plagiarism. They infer that electronic detection systems are used to detect cheating. However, there are not yet any electronic systems which will successfully detect contract cheating. By its very nature, contract cheating represents original work that has been produced to order.

As an example, the following statement was given by a Dundee University spokesman:

There have been two instances of sufficient seriousness during the last three years to be considered by our Academic Dishonesty Committee. Neither of these instances related to ‘contract cheating’.

Such a low rate of detection of what the article refers to as “written to order essays” is worrying.

This suggests that more needs to be done across the sector to address the perceptions that universities have about contract cheating and the ways that this academic integrity issue can be prevented and detected.