UK crackdown on university fraud by banning ‘test factories’

Companies that help university and college students cheat by writing essays must be criminalized under the government’s new proposals.

Companies that provide, organize or advertise paid review writing services will be banned in England, the Department of Education said on Tuesday.

Alex Burghart, the newly appointed skills minister, said: “Test factories are totally unethical and profit by undermining the hard work of most students. We are taking action to ban these cheating services. ”

The measures will be added to the 16-year skills and education bill which is currently under consideration in parliament, indicating continued concerns about the rise of academic fraud across the country.

The Higher Education Quality Assurance Agency, the body responsible for enforcing academic standards at universities, has identified more than 900 websites offering cheating services, up from 635 in 2018.

Some essay companies rely on writers from Africa and the Middle East to produce plagiarism works, while others boast that their writers have frequented elite British institutions. Ministers lobbied online payment and advertising platforms to ban such services from their sites.

On Tuesday, a website reported that a mediocre 1,000-word undergraduate history essay would cost £ 124 on seven days’ notice. They also offered funding, allowing students to pay the cost over one year.

Another announced that he would provide a 15,000 word mastery course in 60 days for £ 4,000. On his website, he also said that his service isn’t cheating and that students should “use our personalized essays as a guide to lead. [their] studies”.

Former universities minister Chris Skidmore introduced a bill in February to implement a ban, calling testing factories “a rot that infects the very discipline of learning.”

Skidmore added that his bill “would not seek to criminalize the students themselves” for using such services. He noted that other countries, especially Australia, are providing a role model for the government as it seeks to crack down on the practice.

Officials told the FT that some companies have even blackmailed students, threatening to expose their clients’ fraud to their institutions if they don’t pay.

Universities UK, which represents the vice-chancellors, welcomed the news. “Although the use of essay mills by students is rare, all universities have codes of conduct that include severe penalties for students who submit work that is not theirs,” he said. .

The National Union of Students said that companies “exploit the vulnerabilities and insecurities of students to make money through exploitation” and urged universities to deploy academic and pastoral support to end the attractiveness of these businesses.

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