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Indians get plum projects from UK

British students have been paying IT professionals in India for completing their assignments through Internet.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 15:05 IST

In a unique twist to outsourcing from Britain to India, students in British universities have been paying computer professionals in India to complete their course assignments for a fee.

The newly recognised trend, operating mainly through the Internet, has been dubbed as "contract plagiarism" by British academics who have tracked such malpractices. It is more in vogue among students enrolled in IT courses in British universities.

The modus operandi is simple: A student willing to pay for the course assignment puts on certain websites an offer, giving details of what is required, and invites bids from professionals who are willing to complete the assignment for a fee.

Such online bidding is invariably dominated by IT professionals from India. Due to competitive bidding, students in British universities are able to get their computer assignments done for as low as 5 to 10 pounds - all to high quality and tight deadlines.

According to an investigation conducted by Robert Clarke and Thomas Lancaster of the University of Central England (UCE), the trend has assumed the dimensions of international trade, with offers being made by students in western countries, for which competitive bids are made by professionals in India and eastern Europe.

"It's a little cottage industry," Clarke, a lecturer in the department of computing at the UCE, told The Guardian.

Clarke and Lancaster monitored a legitimate website on which small companies advertise for software to be written, but found 12 per cent of its business was students asking for bids to write their assignments.

The offers are by students who want, for example, a computer code written, but are incapable, lazy or wealthy enough to pay someone else to do the needful.

Over the course of a year, the UCE lecturers found the average student on the site was posting four to seven assignments to be done by someone else.

This meant that they were repeat offenders and had apparently got good results from previous such purchases and had got away with it.

They also discovered "subcontractors" offering 50-100 assignments (and in one case more than 200) for bids and acting as middlemen between cheating students and the writers.

Clarke said he was tipped off about the Rent-a-coder website when one of his assignments appeared on it. He was able to track down the student concerned and warned her. He now reportedly tips off other tutors about "contract plagiarism".

Clarke and Lancaster identified 48 students from different universities across Britain trying to cheat by contracting out their assignments. Other students were traced to countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

They managed to trace course leaders at the universities involved and alert them to their students' cheating, which led to some students being thrown off courses in the US.

Lancaster, also lecturer in computing at the UCE, told the media: "This type of cheating is cost effective for students, because many of the suppliers are internationally based and can complete the set assignments for a few dollars a time.

"They go away and produce a piece of work for that student so they're not going to get caught by standard methods of plagiarism detection. A lot of students are looking at this now and think it's a very good investment for very low amounts of money.

"There is a serious concern that, unlike plagiarism, academic institutions are not yet fully aware of the potential prevalence of 'contract cheating' and the measures that can be taken to avoid it."

Clarke and Lancaster are scheduled to present their findings at an international plagiarism conference in Gateshead next week.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 12:50 IST