University bosses call for ‘essay mill’ companies ban

The services, which are illegal in some countries, provide custom essays for students to cheat with.

As many as one in seven recent graduates may have cheated by using “essay mills” during the last four years, according to a recent study.

Students who get caught face punishment by their university, including possible disqualification, although it is not illegal for a company to offer the service.

The BBC reports that more than 40 vice-chancellors have written to the education secretary calling for those who provide the services, rather than students who use them, to be targeted by new laws.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Today’s news on essay mills reveals the scale of the black market available to students – these services are normalising and enabling cheating, but also trying to devalue the quality of our degrees and put our world-class reputation at risk.

“University is all about learning, training your intellect and applying knowledge to a high standard. Students work incredibly hard to get a place at university and those who choose to cheat risk throwing it all away, cheating their futures, for the sake of a shortcut.

“Students must not resort to cheating – it is not the solution for anyone who may be struggling on their course – the right thing is to speak to lecturers and get the right support.

“Legislative options are not off the table, but I also expect universities to be taking steps to tackle this issue – the OfS will take tough action if they fail to do so.”

A parliamentary petition is already under way calling for essay mills to be banned.

Often the work can be difficult to identify as the essays are tailored for individual subjects and appear original.

A study by Swansea University published in August reviewed questionnaires dating back to 1978 where students were asked if they had ever paid for someone else to complete their work.

The findings – covering 54,514 participants – showed a 15.7% rise in the number of students who admitted cheating between 2014 and 2018.

In March the Advertising Standards Agency banned adverts for an essay writing company by failing to make it clear that the papers were not meant to be submitted by students as their own work.

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