Call for ban on essay mills

27 September 2018

The Russell Group has added its name to a joint letter to the Secretary of State Damien Hinds urging him to take stronger action against essay mills and other forms of contract cheating.

University vice chancellors from across the sector want to stamp out the growing problem of companies that offer students assignments-to-order. They are calling for a legal ban on the basis that ‘essay mills undermine the integrity of UK higher education and are unfair to the vast majority of honest, hard-working students.’

Essay mills provide students with bespoke, original pieces of work which cannot easily be detected by anti-plagiarism software.

The full letter:

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to urge you to take action against the increasing problem of so-called essay mills companies that facilitate contract cheating by producing assignments-to-order for students. Essay mills undermine the integrity of UK Higher Education and are unfair to the vast majority of honest, hard-working students. We are confident that you abhor such cheating as much as we do and encourage you to take the necessary steps to curb these practices, steps which must include a legislative ban on operating or advertising an essay mill.

In March 2017, Lord Young of Cookham, representing the Government, told Parliament that, ‘we remain open to legislation in the future should the steps we are taking prove insufficient.’ Despite concerted action by the QAA, universities and student unions, new research published last month indicates that contract cheating is becoming more common around the world. This form of cheating is particularly hard to detect and, whilst universities must continue to do their part, it is clear to us the time has come for the Government to give legislative backing to the efforts to shut down these operations.

Legislation will not be a magic bullet; it is, however, a vital part of the broader package of measures. Legislation would, amongst other advantages, shut-down UK-based essay mills; prevent the advertising of their services near campuses and in public places such as the London Underground; enable the removal of essay mills from search engine findings and prevent UK-based companies from hosting online advertisements for essay mills.

Most importantly, it will send a clear statement to the global Higher Education sector that the integrity of a UK degree is valued by the government. Any legislation would need to be carefully crafted, in particular to ensure that the law targeted the essay mills themselves, and did not criminalise students or legitimate educational services. There are, however, existing models, including the Bill recently introduced by the Irish government and the draft bill published by Newton and Draper in 2017, either of which provide a starting point for developing legislation for the UK.

We therefore call upon you to:

  • Commit to introducing legislation to ban the provision and advertising of essay mills before the end of this Parliament.
  • Commission the QAA to develop and publish a draft Bill by or before the beginning of the next Parliamentary Session, building on their existing work with academic and legal experts.
  • Give your Department’s full support to efforts by the QAA and OfS to tackle this issue, including supporting the QAA’s proposed initiative to establish a UK Centre for Academic Integrity, with a formal remit to research, analyse and combat academic misconduct.

Essay mills have no place in UK Higher Education. With New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and 17 US states all having introduced or introducing a ban, it is time for the UK to also take the necessary action to demonstrate that the UK is not a safe haven for Essay Mills to do business, and so to safeguard the reputation of the UK Higher Education sector.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Professor Michael Arthur

President and Provost, University College London

 

Professor Dame Janet Beer

Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool

 

Professor Amanda Blackmore

President and Chief Executive, GSM London

 

Professor Paul Boyle CBE

Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester

 

Dr Tim Bradshaw

Chief Executive, Russell Group

 

Professor Hugh Brady

Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Bristol

 

Cath Brown

President, Open University Students Association

 

Professor Julia Buckingham CBE

Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University London

Professor Edward Byrne AC

President and Principal, King’s College London

 

Professor Anne Carlisle

Vice-Chancellor, Falmouth University

 

Professor Joy Carter CBE

Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester and Chair of GuildHE

 

Professor Stuart Corbridge

Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University

 

Professor Stuart Croft

Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick

 

Mary Curnock Cook OBE

Former Chief Executive, UCAS

 

Professor Scott Davidson

Vice-Chancellor, Newman University

 

Professor Chris Day

Vice-Chancellor and President, Newcastle University

 

Professor Linda Drew

Vice-Chancellor, Ravensbourne University London

 

Professor Sir David Eastwood

Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham

 

Sir Mark Featherstone-Witty OBE

Founding Principal/CEO, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

 

Professor Ian Greer

President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast

 

Professor Gavin Henderson CBE

Principal, The Royal Centre School of Speech and Drama

 

Professor Margaret House OBE

Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University

 

Professor Sir Chris Husbands

Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University

 

Alistair Jarvis

Chief Executive, Universities UK

 

Alison Johns

Chief Executive, AdvanceHE

 

Professor Koen Lamberts

Vice-Chancellor, University of York

 

Professor John Last OBE

Vice-Chancellor, Norwich University of the Arts

Dr David Llewellyn

Vice-Chancellor, Harper Adams University

 

Professor Jane Longmore

Vice-Chancellor, University of Chichester

 

Professor Mary Kellett

Acting Vice-Chancellor, The Open University

 

Professor Sally Mapstone

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Andrews

 

Russell Marchant

Vice-Chancellor, Hartpury University

 

Gordon McKenzie

Chief Executive, GuildHE

 

Clarie Middleton

Principal and Chief Executive, Rose Bruford College

 

Professor Kathryn Mitchell

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Derby

 

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli

Vice-Chancellor, University of Glasgow and Chair of the Russell Group

 

Professor Malcolm Press

Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University

 

Professor Colin Riordan

Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

 

Sir Anthony Seldon

Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham

 

Bilal Sheikh

Principal, Mont Rose College

 

Professor Sir Steve Smith

Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter

 

Professor Karen Stanton

Vice-Chancellor, York St John University

 

Professor Rob Warner

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Plymouth Marjon University

 

Dr Greg Walker

CEO, MillionPlus

 

Professor Shearer West

Vice-Chancellor, University of Nottingham

 

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