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Mary Leishman

undergraduate education
m.leishman@uea.ac.uk

Essays for sale! But at what cost?

As a student, you may have heard of, or even been approached by, essay mills. These are online companies that will offer to write your essay or assignment in exchange for money. They'll often assure you that it's perfectly normal and acceptable to use their services, but they're lying. Using an essay mill is known as 'contract cheating.' It's a form of plagiarism that is against University rules and could lead to disciplinary action against you – while the essay writing company disappear with your money and don't face any consequences.  

At uea(su) we want to make sure that everyone knows the rules about contract cheating and doesn't get caught out. We'd also like the University to look at the whole picture surrounding this issue, in addition to just punishing those caught, and support students who may be struggling and tempted to use these services so that they can achieve their qualification legitimately.  

In August 2016, the Quality Assurance Agency (the independent body that checks standards in higher education) produced a report about cheating in Universities. Following that report, the QAA discussed the issue further with the government, National Union of Students and Universities UK, and produced a guide in October 2017 on how to combat ‘essay mills’. This guide identified a number of reasons that students might feel they have no other option but to pay for an essay, including personal issues that affect their studies, lacking confidence in their academic abilities and poor research skills. 

It also makes several recommendations on how Universities can help students and therefore minimise cheating. This includes being clear about expectations and the plagiarism rules, providing support for students regarding studying and academic writing, and being mindful of students' diverse needs – including supporting those for whom English is not their first language. 

The Student Support Service Learning Enhancement Team have a range of resources you can access if you're struggling academically. To access these resources go to the 'Learn' tab of the UEA Portal and look for the module 'Learning Enhancement Team' (under 'My organisations).  

You can also access support via advice(su), who are always happy to advise about issues relating to your studies. The Advice Service can help you apply for Extenuating Circumstances if you're struggling with an assignment and need more time, they can help you get a re-mark or look at taking a break from your studies. If you're accused of plagiarism or collusion an advice worker can also talk to you about what to expect and possible outcomes.  Appointments are available on weekdays between 10.00 a.m.  and 4.00 p.m. all year round. Book ahead or drop in to reception to see if someone can see you that day. 

 

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