Speak up and out against contract cheating

In the context of Global Ethics Day, October 19th is the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating, aiming at raising awareness against cheating behaviors in universities that undermine the quality and integrity of the educational system. Prof. Tracey Bretag, Editor-in-Chief of the open access International Journal of Educational Integrity, is among the supporting members of the initiative, and talks with us about it.

Contract cheating occurs when students submit academic work, such as assignments, papers, exams, and/or tests completed by another person. This often involves payment, and it has become a hugely problematic phenomenon in higher education. UK’s Quality Assurance Agency published a report in August exploring the growing threat to UK higher education from custom essay writing services, or ‘essay mills.’

Professor Bretag, why is this event being held?

Contract cheating is a key issue facing every educational sector across the globe. Although schools, colleges and universities have made a concerted effort over the last two decades to address breaches of academic integrity such as plagiarism, contract cheating is qualitatively different in that it profoundly undermines the very purpose of learning.

Simply go to the contract cheating website and register your organization, school, college or university and follow the instructions about how to get going.

A student who contracts out their learning to a third party is not only cheating themselves of the opportunity to learn, but cheating other students who are honestly completing the work. In addition, contract changing undermines the fundamental values of academic integrity which are so critical to all academic communities. This is an international issue which requires an international and coordinated approach.

Contract cheating is often referred to as an “industry.” Is it such a worrying phenomenon?

Contract cheating has become so widespread because gone are the days where a student may have outsourced their work to someone like a friend, parent, or a sibling. Contract cheating has become an industry with thousands of workers in a range of different countries providing bespoke, custom written assignments to students for a surprisingly inexpensive fee. Students in Australia or elsewhere, at the click of their mouse, can access cheap and quickly prepared assignments by someone working in Pakistan, India, Ukraine or the UK. It’s an industry with no base, no centralized point of contact and often in environments where no legislation prevents it from operating.

How can institutions and students join the event?

Simply go to the contract cheating website and register your organization, school, college or university and follow the instructions about how to get going. It’s important that everyone comes together to create an international action against contract cheating on 19th October. We hope this will send a message, loud and clear, to both the contract cheating websites and to governments in the various countries that these sites should be illegal and regardless, they are most certainly unethical.

How do you think this kind of initiative can help bring down contract cheating?

Because contract cheating is not an issue at just one institution, university or college, one country or even one sector, a coordinated international movement such as the one we are planning for 19th of October is critical if changes are to occur. This is an international phenomenon and so we need an international response. Institutions need to put aside their own personal agendas, their own concerns about their reputations, and work collaboratively, and with transparency, with colleagues from the various educational sectors across the globe.

You can follow the initiative and spread the word on social media with the hashtags #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity. The International Journal for Educational Integrity, with all its fully open access content, is advocating for this issue and hosts many articles on this topic.

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