Essays for cash: UK to ban ‘mills’ that offer contract cheating

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on October 6, 2021

Companies allow students to pay others to write their assignments for them

The Boris Johnson government has moved a bill in parliament that will ban online and offline companies that offer students at British universities and higher education institutions essays and other course assignments for cash, following a growing concern at unscrupulous practices in the education sector.

Called ‘essay mills’, such companies reach out to students on campuses and online. Financially well-off domestic and international students using such services are seen as subverting the academic challenge that could adversely affect the quality and reputation of degrees and other qualifications that are offered by the United Kingdom (UK)

Officials said the British government intends to make it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise these cheating services for financial gain to students taking a qualification at any institution in England providing post-16 education, including universities.

The ban, included in the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, has been introduced in the House of Lords.

Later, it will be introduced in the House of Commons, before progressing to the stage when Royal Assent is granted, and the bill becomes law.

The UK’s Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said: “Essay mills are completely unethical and profit by undermining the hard work most students do. We are taking steps to ban these cheating services.”

Officials added that banning ‘essay mills’ would help to safeguard the academic integrity and standards of post-16 and higher education in England and protect students from falling prey to the deceptive marketing techniques of contract cheating services.

The bill follows a number of steps taken to tackle the unscrupulous ‘essay mills’, including the government working with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Universities UK and the National Union of Students to produce guidance for institutions on how to combat the threat of contract cheating and guidance for students to make them better aware of the consequences, sending a clear message that these services are not legitimate.

Previous efforts included initiatives to block over 100 websites and internet forums offering assignments to university students in Britain for a fee, many of them based in South Asia.

‘Contract cheating’ happens when a third party completes work for students who then submit them to education providers as their own, where such inputs are not permitted. A student contracts a third party to provide the assessment, usually a company or individual using a website to promote themselves and receive orders.

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