Students: Plagiarism

Department for Education written question – answered on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to prevent essay mills businesses from targeting university students.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

The use of companies that sell bespoke essays to students who pass the work off as their own undermines the reputation of the education system in this country and devalues the hard work of those succeeding on their own merit.

The government has a clear expectation that educational institutions do everything in their power to prevent students being tempted by these companies. In a university context that may be through introducing initiatives such as honour codes, as well as making sure their students are aware of the severe consequences they face if they are caught cheating.

In addition, the department published an Education Technology strategy on 3 April which challenges technology companies to identify how anti-cheating software can tackle the growth of essay mills and stay one step ahead of the cheats. This strategy can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/realising-the-potential-of-technology-in-education.

The government is supporting the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to put pressure on technology companies who readily facilitate the use of essay mills.

On 20 March, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, challenged PayPal to stop processing payments for ‘essay mills’ as part of an accelerated drive to preserve and champion the quality of the UK’s world-leading higher education system.

PayPal is now working with businesses associated with essay-writing services to ensure its platform is not used to facilitate deceptive and fraudulent practices in education.

Google and YouTube have also responded by removing hundreds of advertisements for essay writing services and promotional content from their sites.

This supports and furthers the 2017 efforts of the QAA and National Union of Students and Universities UK who responded to the government’s request to develop guidance for higher education providers on how to combat the threat of “contract cheating”.

This guidance includes advice to higher education providers to consider blocking access to essay mills from computers and Wi-Fi systems on their property and disrupting essay mills’ opportunities to advertise by asking pamphlet distributers to leave their campuses and using their own social media and email accounts to contact their students, warning them about any detected contact from particular sites and companies and re-stressing the need for academic integrity.

The Office for Students (OfS) is the independent regulator of higher education in England. Through the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, the government has given the OfS 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. The government remains open to the future need for additional legislation and will continue to investigate all options available.

We are determined to beat the cheats who threaten the integrity of our higher education system.

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