Sharp rise in essay cheating globally

A review of surveys covering over 50,000 students reveals that the use of ‘essay mills’ is rising rapidly around the world; Frontiers in Education

Frontiers in Education; A review of surveys covering over 50,000 students reveals that the use of 'essay mills' is rising rapidly around the world

Surveys since 2014 show 16% of students admit to paying for essays – and the real number is likely to be even higher.

A review of surveys covering over 50,000 students reveals that the use of ‘essay mills’ is rising rapidly around the world.

— by Swansea University, UK

Universities worldwide are gripped by an epidemic of contract cheating, wherein students pay someone else to write their essays, coursework or exam answers for them. Because the products of the so-called “essay-mills” providing these services are designed to be difficult to detect, it is hard to develop objective measures of contract cheating. To address this, a new study published in Frontiers in Education systematically reviewed findings from prior ‘self-report’ research papers: questionnaire-based studies wherein students were asked if they had ever paid someone else to undertake work for them.

How Common Is Commercial Contract Cheating in Higher Education and Is It Increasing? A Systematic Review
► Read original article
► Download original article (pdf)

Author Professor Phil Newton, from Swansea University, analysed 71 survey samples from 65 studies dating back as far as 1978, covering 54,514 participants.

The findings of the research show that as many as one in seven recent graduates may have paid someone to undertake their assignment for them, potentially representing 31 million students across the globe.

Across the sample, contract cheating was self-reported by a historic average of 3.5% of students, but this was shown to be increasing significantly over time. In studies from 2014 to present, the percentage of students admitting to paying someone else to undertake their work was 15.7%. Cheating, in general, also appeared to be on the rise according to the studies reviewed.

Professor Newton suggests that the data he found is actually likely to underestimate levels of contract cheating, for the simple reason that students who engage in contract cheating are less likely to volunteer to participate in surveys about cheating.

Related: Age, race or need for instant gratification: which best predicts how much you will earn?

Essay-mills are currently legal in the UK, although they are banned in the USA and New Zealand, while other countries are actively developing legislation. Professor Newton warns: “The UK risks becoming a country where essay-mills find it easy to do business”.

Commenting on the results of his research, Professor Newton, director of learning and teaching at Swansea University Medical School, says: “These findings underscore the need for legislation to tackle essay-mills, alongside improvements in the way students are assessed and awareness-raising of the fundamentals of academic integrity. We need to utilise assessment methods that promote learning and at the same time reduce the likelihood that contract cheating can happen”.

proposal for a new law emerged from previous research by Professor Newton, in collaboration with Professor Michael Draper from the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law at Swansea University. The proposal came from their earlier study, which concluded that existing UK laws would not be effective in tackling Essay Mills. There is currently an active petition calling for the government to introduce a new law.

Both Professor Newton and Professor Draper were authors of a report issued by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) last year, which contained advice and guidance for higher education providers and staff on many different approaches to contract cheating. Earlier research from Professor Newton showed that academic integrity is not a topic that is routinely covered in teacher training programmes for staff and that students have a poor understanding of the consequences of engaging in contract cheating.

Original article: How Common Is Commercial Contract Cheating in Higher Education and Is It Increasing? A Systematic Review

REPUBLISHING GUIDELINES: Open access and sharing research is part of Frontiers’ mission. Unless otherwise noted, you can republish articles posted in the Frontiers news blog — as long as you include a link back to the original research. Selling the articles is not allowed.

3 Comments on Sharp rise in essay cheating globally

  1. Jasdeep Singh Bhattal // October 5, 2018 at 6:43 pm // Reply

    It’s a world wide, cheating in India starts from KG where in students are asked to prepare charts and projects and in market many shops are selling ready made charts and projects

  2. Although I have not used such services myself, I know of some who have, and they are not proud of doing it. If anyone is to be blamed, I think it should be the academic system. Too many courses, assignments, exams, and then essays. If we could take it a notch down, and introduce joy in learning something, this would not happen. Just my opinion.

  3. When I was a student, our professors had time to examine us personally. Now I am an academic myself, and me and the other staff members have no time for students, since we are strongly pressed for high impact publications. So we turned from oral exams to essays.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: