15% of University Students Buy Their Essays, So How Does This Reflect the Australian Education System?
All over Australia and New Zealand essay cheating is becoming more common as students chose to employ essay writing companies to complete their higher education. Why is buying essays so common, and what does is say about our young people and universities?
Buying essays online is commonly known as contract cheating, and in 2017 alone, more than 20,000 students were using essay writing websites, or the “essay mills” to mirror their own writing style and own work in order to get higher grades.
It’s not a new concept – having someone else sit your exam or complete an assignment for you has been going on for hundreds of years, but with the rise of globalisation and easy access (and anonymity), cheating services have become commonplace.
And it’s not just essays lab reports, book reviews, statistics or even thesis’ can be purchased. Exact numbers are, by nature difficult to come by, as while we know that these cheating services are big business by the sheer scope of services available, students don’t want to admit that they’ve employed them. The term used to explain this, ‘contract cheating’ was created in 2006, but the increase in accessibility since then has exploded.
Up to 31 million students around the world have admitted to paying for a completed university assessment
Like any service, options range from cheap essays that are copied and pasted from the internet, and won’t hold up to the plagiarism software like turnitin that many universities use, to more expensive services that have a quality assurance that create a custom essay using the students writing style, written entirely by professional writers. And just like any questionable service, there’s nowhere to go if it doesn’t work out for you.
Essay Markets a Dodgy Business
Students report having bought essays from cheating services online that have clearly been copied from a non-English website and then google translated, and have no power to do anything about it but leave a bad review. Some have even been threatened by the websites if they left bad review, the company will tell the university that they’d engaged in their services.
Some of the largest essay writing services promise a particular mark or result, with a money back assurance for bad results. Most websites protect themselves by creating terms and conditions that put all of the results on the students, i.e. what the client does with their essay is up to them.
Competition a Factor in Contract Cheating
So why do students use these services, and what does it say about our universities? Motivation for cheating varies, but the study found that some of the factors include:
International Students the Biggest Users
In Australia, international students are a huge part of our Universities and have been found to be proportionally higher cheaters than domestic students. Fuelled by language difficulties and overseas standards, International students in Australia are typically less aware of University cheating policies.
In terms of how this reflects on the Australian University system, it shows a clear gap in support services and information presented to new students form overseas, where entry language requirements are too low to provide students to an equal play field.
While most Universities now practice using plagiarism detection software when it comes to assignment submissions, this does not account for the hundreds of essay mills that provide original content, where freelance writers create essays uniquely, instead of recycling the same topic.
With education one of our biggest exports, we need to ensure that our universities maintain a good name. Quality work is the mark of a successful university, and if international students don’t have the needed writing skills then universities need to engage high quality tutors who can help students get to the point they need to be, or have more stringent entry requirements.
The essay mills are busy pumping out essays as you read this, so it’s unlikely that they’re going away anytime soon. Educators and other groups need to consider how to reduce the need for the services – either by raising the requirements to get into university or by increasing the services available to students in higher education to help them with their writing skills.
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