Contract cheating, where students pay someone else to write their assignments, is rising rapidly world over, a new study has found.
The study at Swansea University show that as many as one in seven recent graduates may contract out their assignment. That’s around 31 million students across the world.
“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,” said researcher Phil Newton.
“We need to utilise assessment methods that promote learning and at the same time reduce the likelihood that contract cheating can happen”.
For the study, published in Frontiers in Education, Newton analysed 71 survey samples from 65 studies dating back as far as 1978, covering 54,514 participants.
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%.
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.
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”.