Increasingly, university students are using online service providers to complete their assignments. Students who pay for essay writing services are not only in breach of university plagiarism regulations, but may also face charges including fraudulent conduct.
A recent private investigation revealed that essay writing services offered by MyMaster, a Chinese website, represent only the tip of the iceberg. David Caruso of the University of Adelaide says students who engage the services of the likes of MyMaster may fall foul of laws in relations to dishonesty and deception. Students are evidently engaging in something that can be described as misleading and, if caught, jeopardise their relationship with their university. Such conduct is much more substantial that mere essay help. Offences of fraud and forgery both carry heavy penalties in most jurisdictions.
Despite the fact that businesses such as MyMaster are facilitating large-scale academic misconduct, fraud and cheating, the authorities have limited scope to shut down their operations. The balance between consumer and competition protection and fraud grossly inhibit the authorities’ ability to take action.
Universities are also limited in scope with respect to their ability to bring an action in fraud against businesses such as MyMaster. This is chiefly because their is no direct relationship between a university and an essay writing service. Whilst these business are facilitating academic misconduct and potentially fraud, they themselves aren’t doing anything wrong. These business are often upfront about the services that they provide and it is the students who are technically solely responsible. Faced with an accusation of fraud or other illegal activity, MyMaster is likely to claim that they have done nothing wrong.
In addition to the legal consequences, students may also expose themselves to the wrath of a university, armed with its academic conduct protocols and plagiarism detection technology. Many universities have imposed severe penalties against students who have be proven to have engaged the services of ‘ghost writing’ businesses.
Several higher education watchdogs and government agencies have started to investigate allegations that students are engaging the services of online businesses to write assignments. Bizarrely, alongside advertisements for services such as cleaning and carpentry, now lies advertisements for made to order essays. Many writers are setting out pricing schedules based on word limits and indiscriminately enabling students to pay their way through higher education assessments. Writers experienced in topics ranging from science literature reviews to commerce and health industry diplomas are able to be found easily on the internet.
This is something that is very disturbing for society as a whole. Nobody would want to visit a doctor who had paid their way through their degree. The Australian Skills Quality Authority have said that they are aware of the issue. The nature of the internet is such that this problem is likely to continue to grow and, from a legal perspective, their is little the authorities or academic institutions can do to remedy it.