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QAA publishes guide on essay cheats

New guidelines on how to tackle essay mills that help students cheat their way to a qualification have been released by the QAA.

QAA on essay cheatsUniversities minister Jo Johnson asked QAA to work on measures to combat so-called ‘contract cheating’. Photo: qaa.ac.uk

"It not only undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don't cheat"

Following an investigation into essay mills last year, universities minister Jo Johnson asked the QAA to work on measures to combat so-called ‘contract cheating’, where students pay a company or individual to produce work they then pass off as their own.

Entitled ‘Contracting to Cheat in Higher Education – How to Address Contract Cheating, the Use of Third-Party Services and Essay Mills’the guidelines encourage educational institutions to become more familiar with students’ capabilities, provide appropriate support for whistleblowers and use smarter detection software.

“Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse”

This follows TEQSA, Australia’s HE standards agency, releasing a similar document to address students using paid third-parties to complete academic assessment.

Speaking about the guidelines, Johnson described this form of cheating as “unacceptable and pernicious”.

“It not only undermines standards in our world-class universities, but devalues the hard-earned qualifications of those who don’t cheat and can even, when it leads to graduates practising with inadequate professional skills, endanger the lives of others,” he said.

In addition to publishing these guidelines, the QAA is calling on universities and colleges to record all incidents cheating to help build a clearer picture of the scale of the problem in UK higher education.

QAA chief executive Douglas Blackstock said it is important that students are not duped by unscrupulous essay companies.

“Paying someone else to write essays is wrong and could damage their career. Education providers should take appropriate action to tackle and prevent this kind of abuse,” he added.

As well as guidance for higher education providers, QAA is also working on guidance for students, while the NUS is running a similar campaign to combat contract cheating with students.

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