Investigation prompts action against essay writing companies
By Rosa Smith, News Editor
The universities watchdog has revealed plans for a clampdown on companies who profit from helping students cheat to gain their degree.
An investigation that was conducted last year by the Quality Assurance Agency discovered hundreds of companies, known as ‘essay-mills’ were producing written work that students could submit as their own.
Pricing varied drastically depending on the nature of the assignment, starting for as little as £15 to almost £7,000 for a PhD dissertation.
The Universities minister, Jo Johnson, has called for new guidelines to be introduced by the QAA which will urge universities to ban essay mills from advertising on campus and block their websites. Universities will also be urged to use software to spot changes in their students’ writing style, as well improving the help and support available for students who are struggling with academic writing.
Last year, posters advertising writing services outside underground stations near London universities were reported, whilst another company was reportedly distributing leaflets to students at Queen Mary University.
The National Union of Students has also decided to launch their own campaign against cheating when it comes to assessed work.
Amatey Doku, NUS vice-president for higher education, said some students were turning to these unscrupulous companies because of the pressure they face to succeed when faced with such high levels of debt.
‘Many websites play on the vulnerabilities and anxieties of students, particularly homing in on students’ fears that their academic English and their referencing may not be good enough.
‘Making money by exploiting these anxieties is disgusting.’