The use of companies that sell bespoke essays to students who submit them as their own work undermines the reputation of the sector and devalues the hard work of those succeeding on their own merit. We are currently focussing on non-legislative options to address this problem, but remain open to the future need for legislation, and will continue to investigate all options available. We should only legislate where it is absolutely necessary. The government’s preferred approach is to tackle this issue through a sector-led initiative, which is why the department has worked with Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), Universities UK and the National Union of Students to publish guidance last October for all UK Universities on how best to tackle contract cheating.
Time is needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the new guidance and this is underway. The QAA is running a series of seminars to evaluate how the sector is using the guidance.
Officials are also working closely with the QAA on proposals for a UK Centre for Academic Integrity that would help the UK government and the higher education sector to better understand the scale of the problem and identify new ways to tackle the issue.
Through the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, we have given the Office for Students the power to take action if higher education providers are found to be, in any way, complicit in cheating. This includes imposing fines or ultimately de-registration, the highest possible punishment. We expect Vice-Chancellors to play their part by adopting robust anti plagiarism and cheating policies which exclude students who use essay mills and by tackling the advertising of these services in their institutions.
We welcome the swift action YouTube took to remove videos containing adverts promoting the EduBirdie essay-writing service, in response to recent the BBC Trending investigation on academic cheating, in which it was made very clear that YouTube had a moral responsibility to take action.