Essay writing services will be made illegal in England – Consumer Protection

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Essay writing services, known as essay mills, are to be made illegal under plans announced by the government on October 5, 2021.

The government intends to make it a criminal offense to provide, arrange or advertise essay writing services for profit to students gaining a qualification at any institution in England providing post-16 education, including universities.

This decision follows a number of measures already taken by the government to protect academic integrity from the effect of the test mills. In 2018, 46 university vice-chancellors wrote a joint letter calling for a ban on essay writing services, and the government worked with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Universities UK and the National Union of Students to produce advice on how institutions could counter the threat of contractual fraud, and for students to raise their awareness of the consequences (which could go as far as withdrawal from their course or expulsion from their place of study). The latest efforts to ban test mills and other “contract cheating” have been welcomed by members of all parties and throughout the education industry, and hailed as protecting academic integrity and the standards of post-16 and higher education in England and the protection of young people during their studies.

the Post-16 Skills and Education Bill (the ‘Invoice‘) introduces this measure as a way to protect students from “deceptive grading techniques by contract fraud services”. The bill also aims to contribute to the improvement of opportunities throughout the country by transforming the existing educational landscape: alternative training and career paths, such as technical education, apprenticeship, T-levels or internships , should be given prominence and equal status alongside the traditional academic path. (as shown in the White paper on skills for employment).

Test mills – given that they profit from academic fraud – are widely considered unethical, although they remain legal in most countries. The UK is following in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland in taking action against contract fraud.

Ghostwriting services are active around the world and often target students studying in a second language. The increase in demand for such services is likely the result of increased competition for university places, especially when open-book courses and exams contribute to crucial final grades. Ironically, these services encourage a lack of scholarships that poorly prepare students for further education.

The online learning environment that has developed as a result of lockdown mandates during the Covid-19 pandemic has made students increasingly vulnerable to the lures of essay writing services. As campus wellness and support became less accessible to students working remotely from home and motivation throughout the academic year waned as Zoom fatigue set in, levels of cheating websites have exploded: The Quality Assurance Agency estimated in 2021 that there were at least 932 sites operating in the UK, up from 904 in December 2020, 881 in October 2020 and 635 in June 2018. More brazenly , there are examples of essay mill service providers taking advantage of the difficult circumstances facing students during the pandemic by offering 2-4-1 and other specials to “help” students through a few difficult academic years. and unusual.

While the bill’s proposals are welcome, the measures are not a complete solution to online cheating. The International Journal for Educational Integrity has highlighted the growing number of ways students wishing to circumvent academic honesty rules can do so using technology. For example, the use of file-sharing websites to seek help from others and receive answers to exam questions – in real time and under exam conditions – increased by approximately 196% during the 2020-21 year in STEM subjects. The bill does not extend to Wales or Scotland, for which education is a devolved issue: Test mills may still target UK schools and universities and see plenty of reasons to maintain their activities.

Gareth Crossman, head of policy and public affairs at the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, spoke of the length of the journey ahead, saying: “[the Bill] sends a clear signal but, with more than 1000 test factories in operation, the industry must continue to work together to bring them out of business. Only time will tell if the measures, once implemented, are effective and if the government needs to go further to protect students from predatory academic practices in the future.

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