Higher Education Cheating Services Prohibition Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:55 pm on 25th June 2021.

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Photo of Lord Bhatia Lord Bhatia Non-affiliated 2:55 pm, 25th June 2021

[Inaudible]—how many students use “essay mill” or other third-party contract cheating services. The Government’s response was that the bespoke nature of paid-for assignments

“can make it difficult for providers to detect that it is not the student’s own work.”

Research has indicated that the use by students of essay mills and contract cheating services appears to have increased in recent years. Minister Chris Skidmore said there were

“at least 932 sites in operation in the UK”.—[Official Report, Commons, 10/2/21; col. 349.]

In September 2018, more than 40 university vice-chancellors wrote to the Government calling for legislation to target essay mill companies:

“Legislation will not be a magic bullet; it is, however, a vital part of the broader package of measures. Legislation would, amongst other advantages, shut-down UK-based essay mills; prevent the advertising of their services near campuses and in public places such as the London Underground; enable the removal of essay mills from search engine findings and prevent UK-based companies from hosting online advertisements for essay mills.”

Despite NUS guidance, the creation of an Academic Integrity Advisory Group, and the introduction of new generation plagiarism detection software in universities, the use of essay mills did not appear to be declining. The paper argued that legislation was therefore needed to—I emphasise—criminalise the practice in the UK. Does the Minister agree?