Block Indian sites offering ‘contract cheating’, UK varsities told

“Contract cheating” happens when a third party completes work for a student who then submits it to an education provider as their own.
“Contract cheating” was first reported in 2008 by Thomas Lancaster and Robert Clarke at Birmingham City University.(iStock)
“Contract cheating” was first reported in 2008 by Thomas Lancaster and Robert Clarke at Birmingham City University.(iStock)
Published on Oct 09, 2017 07:28 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, London | By

Over 100 websites and internet forums offering assignments to university students in Britain for a fee – many based in India – are to be blocked on campus computers and WiFi systems to prevent “contract cheating” — selling assignments for a fee.

Academics told Hindustan Times that thousands of students at British universities have been using Indian expertise in IT as part of “contract cheating”, whereby course assignments are contracted online for a fee, endangering the quality of degrees awarded.

The phenomenon – first reported in academic circles in 2008 by Thomas Lancaster and Robert Clarke at Birmingham City University – has become more sophisticated over the years, making it difficult to detect through usual plagiarism detection software.

“Contract cheating” happens when a third party completes work for a student who then submits it to an education provider as their own, where such input is not permitted. A student contracts the third party to provide the assessment, usually a company or individual using a website to promote themselves and receive orders.

Such companies have become known as “essay mills”, even though they supply more than just essays. The common approach is for the work to be outsourced once again by the mills to individual writers, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), an independent body tasked with safeguarding standards and improving the quality of higher education, said.

New guidance to be published on Monday by the QAA says that the “advertising activity of essay mills has increased in recent years”. It confirmed the existence of more than 100 such websites, with prices depending on the complexity of assignments and tightness of deadlines. They can range from £200 for one essay to as high as £6,750 for a PhD dissertation.

The guidance includes blocking access to “essay mills” on campuses. It says: “Attempts to access essay mill sites would be met with a message that access is prohibited…This will not prevent a student from accessing sites from their own devices.

“However, if they do try to use providers’ systems, the block message will signal that the provider is aware of the sites and reinforce the importance of academic integrity. Where providers do not block sites, and students are able to access essay mills from their systems, the opposite impression may be given.”

Lancaster, now at Staffordshire University, told HT: “We’ve observed a lot of people from India bidding to complete academic work for students. They make offers that are very appealing to students from the UK, they’ll do the assignment for what is a low price for a UK student, but a good living wage for the worker in India.

“As part of my contract cheating work, I’m seeing a lot of advertising for essay mills around university campuses in the UK. Companies are handing out business cards and they’re advertising to students on social media. A lot of this advertising is targeted at international students, including those from India.”

Universities have plagiarism detection software, but several websites offer “plagiarism-free guarantees”, or essays and assignments tested against such detection software, making it difficult for academics to confirm the authenticity of a student’s work.

Universities minister Jo Johnson said: “This form of cheating is 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.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Authorities have moved to eliminate any potential source of embarrassment during Xi's time in the city, with national security police making at least nine arrests over the past week.

    Hong Kong on high alert as Xi Jinping visit expected for handover

    Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Hong Kong Thursday, prompting a massive security effort ahead of celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the city's handover to communist China. Government leaders have been forced into a closed-loop system, parts of the city shut down, and multiple journalists barred from Friday events that will showcase the Communist Party's control over the city after a political crackdown that dismantled a democracy movement and crushed dissent.

  • The North Korean government has consistently denied any role in cyber-enabled theft.

    North Korean hackers suspected in $100 million Harmony heist

    Suspected North Korean hackers known as the Lazarus Group are believed to be behind the recent $100 million heist on California blockchain Harmony, a firm that tracks stolen cryptocurrency said Wednesday. In April, the US Department of Homeland Security issued an alert saying the group was sponsored by the North Korean government, and that it has targeted crypto firms since 2020.

  • Taliban to meet US on releasing frozen Afghan funds after earthquake

    Taliban to meet US on releasing frozen Afghan funds after earthquake

    The United States and the Taliban plan talks Thursday in Qatar on unlocking some of Afghanistan's reserves following a devastating earthquake, officials said, with Washington seeking ways to ensure the money goes to help the population. The White House said it is working "urgently" on the effort, but a member of the Afghan central bank's board said it could take time to finalise.

  • Biden seeks to boost abortion patient privacy after Roe tossed

    Biden seeks to boost abortion patient privacy after Roe tossed

    The Biden administration moved to assure women that sensitive information – including medical records related to abortion and data collected by health and period tracking apps – could be shielded from law enforcement after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

  • Nato heads of states and governments pose for a photo during a summit in Madrid, Spain. (REUTERS)

    In a major shift, Nato identifies China as a systemic challenge

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) on Wednesday for the first time in its history recognised China's “stated ambitions and coercive policies” as a threat to the alliance's interests, security and values in a sign of the rapid shift in European geopolitical attitudes. The much-anticipated strategic concept, the first since 2010, was released during a historic Nato summit in Madrid that saw the participation of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Korea.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, June 30, 2022