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Essay mills provide students with bespoke, original pieces of work that cannot easily be detected by anti-plagiarism software.Russell Group Chair Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli and Chief Executive Dr Tim Bradshaw have joined 45 vice chancellors and heads of organisations in calling for new legislation to target these companies 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'.
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.
In the letter, the signatories, who include vice-chancellors of the University of York, Sheffield Hallam and Leeds Trinity Universities, as well as York St John, urge Mr Hinds to target those who provide the services, rather than students who use them.“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,” they said.
“Legislation will not be a magic bullet; it is, however, a vital part of the broader package of measures.”Vice-chancellor of the University of York, Prof Koen Lamberts said: “Essay mills undermine the integrity of our universities and are unfair to the vast majority of honest, hardworking students.
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.Even more startlingly, the QAA completely reversed its opinion in the course of doing so, acknowledging in its August report that essay mills were a growing problem and calling for them to be prevented from advertising and excluded from search engines.Could it be that an obvious villain is urgently required to divert attention from the real ills of UK higher education?In 2009, a House of Commons committee asked whether their operators should be prosecuted.The government responded that it was not worth the trouble.The number of people we are talking about is minuscule.” Nor were the public much bothered.A 2016 petition to Parliament calling for essay mills to be made illegal garnered just 1,587 signatures.Read the letter from university leaders to Secretary of State Damian Hinds below. 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.This compares with a petition in the same year for the compulsory microchip scanning of deceased pets discovered on railway lines, which attracted 22,510 signatures.Nevertheless, early last year, the government commissioned the QAA to investigate the scale of the problem with essay mills.