What should universities do about organised cheating?

Posted in Teaching on September 16th, 2019 by steve

International“Every so often the world of higher education is swept by a big panic about systemic and widespread cheating. The latest instance is concern about contract cheating or essay mills that provide bespoke essays or papers for students …” (more)

[University Ranking Watch, 16 September]

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‘Ban all watches from exams to stop cheating’

Posted in Teaching on September 10th, 2019 by steve

“All watches should be banned from exam halls to discourage cheating, says an inquiry into the extent of malpractice in exams taken by pupils across the UK. Smart watches, connected to the internet, are already banned from use by students taking public exams …” (more)

[Sean Coughlan, BBC News, 10 September]

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NUI Galway president says cheating remains low despite threat by new technology

Posted in Teaching on August 9th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“The President of NUI Galway says while instances of exam cheating are increasing, overall the number of cases remains extremely small. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh is reacting to new figures which reveal ‘smart watches’ are being linked with increases in cheating at colleges nationwide …” (more)

[Galway Bay FM, 8 August]

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Surge in university students wearing banned smartwatches in exams

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on August 8th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Universities have recorded a sharp increase in the number of students wearing banned smartwatches in exam halls. Most third-level institutions prohibit the use of Fitbits, Apple Watches and other devices which allow users to upload and access documents …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 8 August]

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The Irish Times view on cheating in third-level exams: Education is key to tackling problem

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on November 23rd, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Cheating in higher education has never been easier. Online essay-writing services allow students to access written-to-order assignments and dissertations at a few hours’ notice. Smartphones and small electronic devices can provide access to information in an exam hall and allow students to gain an unfair advantage …” (more)

[Irish Times, 22 November]

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Cheating on the rise in Irish universities

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on November 20th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Cheating is on the rise in Irish universities and colleges with business studies students most likely to be accused of ‘academic dishonesty’. Since 2010, there have been at least 2,300 cases of students cheating at universities and institutes of technology, according to information compiled by The Irish Times based on Freedom of Information requests …” (more)

[Peter McGuire and Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 20 November]

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Who are the biggest cheaters in Irish universities?

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on November 20th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“There’s always been a temptation to cheat, and sneaking phones into exam halls or plagiarising from the internet has made it easier than ever before. Technology has also made it much easier to be caught, however, with higher education institutions increasingly using sophisticated plagiarism-detection tools such as TurnItIn and SafeAssign …” (more)

[Peter McGuire, Irish Times, 20 November]

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College Records a Significant Increase in Plagiarism

Posted in Teaching on November 2nd, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Trinity recorded a significant increase in the number of students reported for plagiarism between 2015/16 and 2016/17, The University Times has learned. The increase, which was reported to University Council by former Senior Lecturer Dr Gillian Martin, was attributed to the implementation by the College of a plagiarism policy in 2015 …” (more)

[Aisling Marren, University Times, 2 November]

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‘Essay mills’ offering bespoke assignments to students to be made illegal

Posted in Governance and administration on October 29th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Websites offering bespoke essays to those in third level education are to be made illegal. New laws are being introduced to make cheating more difficult for students who are ‘gaming the system’. It will also be an offence if a person or company advertises the provision of these essay mill services …” (more)

[Irish Examiner, 29 October]

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15% of students admit to buying essays. What can universities do about it?

Posted in Governance and administration on October 18th, 2018 by steve

“New research on plagiarism at university has revealed students are surprisingly unconcerned about a practice known as ‘contract cheating’. The term ‘contract cheating’ was coined in 2006, and describes students paying for completed assessments. At that time, concerns over the outsourcing of assessments were in their infancy, but today, contract cheating is big business …” (more)

[Jedidiah Evans, The Conversation, 18 October]

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Tough on essay mills, Tough on the causes of essay mills

Posted in Teaching on October 17th, 2018 by steve

“A campaign to outlaw essay mills in the UK has been running for a few months and 17 October marks the international day of action against contract cheating …” (more)

[Fanni Zombor, Wonkhe, 16 October]

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University chiefs ‘urge education secretary to ban essay mills’

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on September 27th, 2018 by steve

“More than 40 university chiefs are reported to have written to the education secretary calling for a ban on so-called ‘essay mills’. The vice-chancellors have called for companies who offer essay-writing services to be made illegal amid fears they are undermining the integrity of degree courses …” (more)

[Guardian, 27 September]

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Essay writing services must be banned to stop cheating, say academics

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on September 1st, 2018 by steve

“The British government has been urged to outlaw essay writing services that allow university students to pay for coursework for their degrees, after a study found that use of ‘contract cheating’ is rapidly increasing around the world. The study by Prof Philip Newton at Swansea University’s medical school collected evidence from surveys taken among students in higher education …” (more)

[Richard Adams, Guardian, 31 August]

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‘Universities to blame’ for profiteering essay mills

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on August 15th, 2018 by steve

“I’ve written here quite a few times now, including most recently here but also here, about the corrosive effect of the profiteering essay mill industry and the growing threat it represents to the integrity of UK higher education …” (more)

[Paul Greatrix, Wonkhe, 14 August]

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To tackle student cheating, we need to reimagine university assessment

Posted in Teaching on June 13th, 2018 by steve

“Ghost-writing academic work is nothing new but until relatively recently it was out of reach of most students. Now essay mills have started rolling on an industrial scale. Their sophisticated websites offer production of a whole range of assignments up to and including dissertations and theses. If required, a typical undergraduate essay, on pretty much any topic, can be turned around in less than 24 hours …” (more)

[Jon Scott, Guardian, 13 June]

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Essay cheating: How common is it?

Posted in Governance and administration on May 5th, 2018 by steve

“A BBC investigation has found that prominent YouTube stars are encouraging students to buy essays. Passing off a custom-made essay as your own is a form of plagiarism known as contract cheating …” (more)

[BBC News, 3 May]

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Number of students cheating at UK universities rise by 30%

Posted in Governance and administration on April 30th, 2018 by steve

“The number of students caught cheating at the UK’s top universities has shot up by a third in three years, with experts warning that institutions are ignoring the problem. Figures compiled by the Guardian from freedom of information requests to Russell Group universities – a group of 24 leading institutions that includes Oxford and Cambridge – shows the number of academic misconduct cases surged by 30%, from 2,640 to 3,721, between the academic years 2014-15 and 2016-17 …” (more)

[Sarah Marsh, Irish Times, 29 April]

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Psst … Need a PhD thesis? That’ll be $63,000

Posted in Research on February 26th, 2018 by steve

“Many readers may have heard whisper of companies that offer a range of writing services – some more ethical than others. Although some companies offer to edit and polish writing, others can write PhD research proposals, masters’ theses, or even a dissertation …” (more)

[Retraction Watch, 22 February]

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The crumbling façade: my experience working for an essay mill

Posted in Life on December 12th, 2017 by steve

“According to a recent UK Government-backed review, academics are topping up their earnings by writing for ‘essay mill’ sites which help students to cheat in their assignments. SA Mills was one of those academics and recounts the experience here; offering an insight into the allure of such opportunities for those either out of work or in precarious positions, as well as the transactional nature of working for these services and with their clients …” (more)

[LSE Impact of Social Sciences, 12 December]

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‘A legal approach to tackling contract cheating?’

Posted in Legal issues on December 6th, 2017 by steve

Abstract: The phenomenon of contract cheating presents, potentially, a serious threat to the quality and standards of Higher Education around the world. There have been suggestions, cited below, to tackle the problem using legal means, but we find that current laws are not fit for this purpose. In this article we present a proposal for a specific new law to target contract cheating, which could be enacted in most jurisdictions. We test our proposed new law against a number of issues that would need to be considered before any legal approach could be successful; would changing the legal status of contract cheating make it less likely to happen? Could this be achieved in a specific way? If so, who should actually be prosecuted and what offence are they committing? Would it actually address the causes of contract cheating? We suggest some answers to these questions, but then also identify a number of unintended potential consequences. We therefore additionally consider whether a legal approach is possible or even desirable. We conclude that a legal approach to contract cheating is possible, and, on balance, appropriate. Using UK law as an example, we offer a specific suggestion to lawmakers, around the world, for how this might be achieved, and conclude that the most successful approach would be to focus largely on a law targeting the providers of contract cheating, in particular commercial services.

Michael J Draper and Philip M Newton, A legal approach to tackling contract cheating?, International Journal for Educational Integrity (December 2017).

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