The regulator’s move has been hailed by the sector, at a time when higher education is facing enormous challenges in efforts towards bouncing back post-pandemic.
“Illegal cheating services threaten academic integrity and expose students to criminals, who often attempt to blackmail students into paying large sums of money,” said Jason Clare, Australia’s Minister for Education.
“Blocking these websites will seriously disrupt the operations of the criminals behind them,” he emphasised.
Clare highlighted that TEQSA had developed new protocols with members of the Communications Alliance to block access to these websites.
“The protocols streamline the process for blocking illegal academic cheating websites, better enabling TEQSA to enforce Australia’s anti-commercial academic cheating laws,” he said via a statement.
“Blocking these websites will seriously disrupt the operations of the criminals”
Earlier this year, The PIE brought out a detailed analysis on the rampant problem in Australian universities – whilst also bringing forward undercover conversations with some contract cheating operators.
This new development comes as a welcome sign of action on the ground by the regulator, in tackling what has become a well-networked and institutionalised global machinery.
“The PIE’s investigative research has found that it is not only a sporadic setup. Rather there seems to be a well-established ecosystem of contract cheating providers in Australia who operate through websites and social media channels and groups, based both in and out of the country,” The PIE’s report had highlighted at the start of the year.
The 40 websites that have now been banned under TEQSA’s latest action were those that witnessed the highest traffic in Australia, building a web footprint of around 450,000 times a month — with one in ten students believed to be paying someone else to do their work for them through such platforms.
Sector peak bodies, such as Universities Australia and Independent Higher Education Australia applauded TEQSA’s ban.
“Contract cheating threatens the integrity and operation of a university education. It is bad for universities and students, and any action to stop these ruthless outlets is a good thing, Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia Chief Executive said.
“Students caught cheating can face serious consequences and may be jeopardising their future careers.
“We are working with the sector to update our 2017 best practice principles to reflect changes in the administration of academic integrity and the delivery of university courses.
“Students caught cheating can face serious consequences”
“We will also continue to work closely with universities, government and the regulator to ensure contract cheating companies think twice before offering their services to our students,” Jackson declared.
“Commercial cheating services threaten the integrity of Australia’s world-class higher education sector,” Peter Hendy, IHEA’s CEO said.
“IHEA will work with our members and TEQSA in action to block illegal contract cheating services,” he mentioned.
TEQSA has also published a sector update, advising all Australian higher education providers to pursue up to date academic integrity policies and procedures.
“TEQSA wishes to remind providers of the importance of maintaining clear and contemporary academic integrity policies and procedures. Academic integrity is fundamental to the reputation and credibility of Australia’s higher education sector,” the update briefly states.
“Providers’ policy frameworks should highlight their commitment to academic integrity and their expectation that all staff and students uphold, and act with, academic integrity.
“Academic misconduct generally refers to a breach of academic integrity through acts such as cheating, plagiarism, and fabrication or falsification of data,” the guideline states.