Essay mills come under fire with plans to prosecute underway

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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The Department of Education is to introduce laws to prosecute essay mills – companies who write students’ essays in exchange for money.

These paid-for essays are original work. However, someone other than the student writes them. As a result, cheating students can bypass a college’s plagiarism detection systems. Plagiarism detection works by comparing a student’s work to already published material. Contract cheating using essay mills is much harder to detect.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton plans to give powers to prosecute companies offering paid-for essays. He is also considering banning them from advertising.

Bruton said the department would consult education providers, students and other relevant parties, as well as look at recent UK research, before drawing up guidelines to address the problem.

Extent of contract cheating unknown

The extent of contract cheating in Ireland is unclear. Figures from The Irish Times suggest that around 1,000 students faced disciplining for plagiarism since 2010.

However, it is suspected that the number of cheating students is significantly higher.  Figures are difficult to gauge as a number of universities and education providers have not revealed figures. Penalties for students caught cheating range from written warnings to disqualification for repeat offenders.

Just another online resource?

An Irish company, Write My Assignments, describes itself as “an online education development company offering support to private individuals and businesses by qualified writers and researchers.” It claims that anyone using its services should reference the company as they would “any other online source.” However it seems likely that many of those using such services do not reference an essay writing service.

Write My Assignments claims they complete around 350 assignments each year and that demand for their service is growing.

Anne Sexton

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