Contract Cheating & The Exploitation of Students

In response to the announcement by the Government of its intended legislation against contract cheating, UMSU reiterates our opposition to any services which exploit students for profit or promote academic unfairness.

While UMSU welcomes strong action to curtail contract cheating mills, we also note that any legislative response does not abrogate the University’s obligation to students to address the factors which increase the appeal to students of using ghostwriters.

There are recurrent themes disclosed in both research and case work, indicating that there is much that Universities can do to make contract cheating less attractive to students. Rather than characterising students vulnerable to contract cheating services as simply lazy or dishonest, both research and advocacy casework indicate that many students turn to these options as a last resort due to a lack of social and academic support. Additionally there exist a number of services targeting vulnerable students by disguising their offerings as “study support” making it challenging for students to clearly distinguish a legitimate tutoring activity from something which crosses the line to cheating.

Further, students studying in a second language may be vulnerable as studying in a second language adds an extra challenge to any course of study. Consequently the University must ensure appropriate learning support is offered to second-language students so that they are competing on a level playing field with other students.

Similarly, poor assessment design is consistently cited in the research as a contributing factor in contract cheating. Casework data from the Advocacy Service indicates that recycling of assessment tasks from year to year remains prevalent in some faculties, for example.

UMSU believes that it is only through good pedagogy and assessment design, reversing the transactional character of the university by restoring an emphasis on learning and reflection, and providing proper integrated learning support with timely and meaningful feedback that the motivations for students to seek and use essay mills will be reduced.

Molly Willmott
UMSU President