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Students: Plagiarism

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL2516, tabled on 7 September 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the growth of essay mill companies during the COVID-19 pandemic; and whether this growth has caused an increase in students cheating.

Answered on

22 September 2021

The government has consistently made it clear that using essay mill services is unacceptable. We have worked with the higher education sector to clamp down on essay mills and to support students who might be targeted by these services. We have also committed to supporting a legislative solution to criminalise essay mill companies.

Essay mills are online entities operating across the globe and it is difficult to determine exactly how many are currently in operation – the Office for Students (OfS) recently estimated this figure could be close to 1,000[1]. The COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to online learning and assessment appears to have led to a recent increase in the number of websites targeting their services at students in the UK.

We have challenged companies from the technology sector to identify how anti-cheating software can tackle the growth of essay mills, and we have worked alongside the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), Universities UK and the National Union of Students to produce guidance for providers on how to combat the threat of ‘contract cheating’ and guidance for students to make them better aware of the consequences of contract cheating, sending a clear message that these services are not legitimate.

The OfS has published information and guidance for providers and students, and the QAA has also published a series of guides to support providers to secure academic standards, and to support student achievement during the pandemic. This includes QAA guidance for providers on how to assess digital delivery with integrity.

We expect educational institutions to do everything in their power to prevent students being tempted by these companies and to detect and address cheating.