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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:57 pm on 25th June 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat 2:57 pm, 25th June 2021

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Storey, who I know is extremely committed to this Bill. I commend him on his determination to push it through.

There is so much pressure on young people in schools, as well as colleges and universities, to succeed and to get top grades. The strain and pressure can sometimes be too much. Some students feel that the only way to cope is to use so-called essay-writing services to enhance their chance of higher grades. Shamefully, there are those out there who will take advantage of these young people and offer a solution they find hard to resist. This is why the Bill is so important: to stop unscrupulous people taking advantage of vulnerable students.

I was the chancellor of the University of Exeter. I used to tell the graduates to act with morality, integrity and honesty and to be the person others can trust. I know that the university, under the leadership of Vice-Chancellor Sir Steve Smith, put support in place during my time as chancellor to assist any student who felt pressured.

Universities UK also supports the Bill. It says it has called for essay-writing services

“to be made illegal and we continue to work together with government, the Quality Assurance Agency … and other higher education bodies to tackle their use.

All universities have codes of conduct that include severe penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own. Such academic misconduct is a breach of an institution’s disciplinary regulations and can result in students, in serious cases, being expelled from the university.

Universities have become increasingly experienced at dealing with such issues and are engaging with students from day-one to underline the implications of cheating and how it can be avoided.

University support services are also there to help vulnerable students struggling with anxiety and stress around coursework and deadlines.”

Universities UK has an ongoing programme of work focused on ensuring that quality and standards in higher education remain high and employers’ confidence in the system is maintained.

The Quality Assurance Agency has now launched its Academic Integrity Charter, signed by 150 UK higher education providers, to protect and promote academic integrity and take action against cheating. Despite all these actions and policies being in place, these organisations all support this Bill, so I hope that the Government will too, and will join forces with them and support my noble friend Lord Storey’s Bill to put measures in place to help young people not to be tempted to cheat, but to be that person others can trust.