Increasing Numbers of Students are Buying Essays

Elizabeth Wittingham·6 September 2018·6 min read
Increasing Numbers of Students are Buying Essays
It’s still legal

Concerns are being raised over the numbers of university students who are buying pre-written essays online- with the government being forced to consider outlawing essay writing service sites in order to stop the practice.

In a report carried out by Swansea University, it has become apparent that one in seven students across the world have purchased essays from online writing services, where fellow students and graduates are paid to complete essays from briefs.

Although one in seven may sound small, it actually amounts to around 37 million students worldwide, meaning the issue is much more widespread than was once thought.

Professor Philip Newton of Swansea University claims that if the companies are not cracked down on, it will soon become the norm to use ‘essay mills’ to complete university work, completely undervaluing the worth of a degree.

Essay Mill companies, who are usually reachable online, are known to trawl social media sites, looking for students who are stressed by deadlines, to then pop up to them in chat with an attractive offer.

Newton has been working to warn students and universities on the dangers of ‘essay mills’, claiming that the sites are able to churn out dissertations in just 12 hours, clearly hinting to the fact that not only is the practice wrong, but is most likely producing poorly written work.

With more than 2,000 people signing a ban to stop the production of paid essays, it seems that there is concern over the impact of the writing services.

Over 20,000 UK students use essay sites every academic year, according to the Telegraph, with more than a third of these students attending either Oxbridge or Russell Group universities!

Whilst signs of plagiarism are pretty easy to spot, according to the Telegraph, Essay milling, or ‘contract cheating’, is growing in popularity due to lecturers and tutors being unable to recognise the purchased essays.

Costing hundreds to even thousands of pounds, the essays claim to be completely unique and are usually completed by academics, meaning that they are usually untraceable in terms of plagiarised texts.

With the essay mill business now worth up to £100 million, it appears that thousands of students are utilising the service every year, with the option of a bespoke essay just a few clicks and a card transaction away.

Alongside the call for an outright ban and the impressive petition, leading figures are now calling for the companies to face repercussions for the sale of essays.

Lord Stoey, co-chair of the Committee of Education, Families and Young People, has launched a campaign to tackle the issue- stating his frustration and anger at the idea that rich students are effectively paying their way to a good degree; 'since I started looking at this three years ago the scale of the problem has gotten worse; we’re also now seeing an increasing number of British students buying these essays. We have to go after the companies that are doing this, but we also have to disincentive students from using these services.’

Stoey went on to state that the 20,000 sum of students is simply a predicted figure, claiming that he believes the figure to be closer to 50,000!

Stoey’s move is backed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, who have stated in the past that essays mills are none other than academic fraud- whilst the freedom of information act have claimed that over 50,000 students have been accused of cheating over the past few years, with the number believed to much higher- yet again.

Associate Dean at Staffordshire University claims that the issues are deep rooted and have been occurring for some time; ‘I think tens of thousands of students are engaged in this type of arrangement, the problem is that we don’t know the scale - because they’re not picked up for cheating and many of these companies are operating outside of the UK.’

Dean Thomas Lancaster, working in partnership with Birmingham University- has gone on to discover 30,000 instances of fraudulent essays in the past year, many of which had been purchased from India.

One of the companies in question, Essays UK, claim that their rise in sales can be put down mainly to international students, who, struggling with the different language and change of scene, often experience a higher amount of stress and end up ordering the fake essays more than British students.

Supplying essays for a cost of £400-£800, Essays UK churn out thousands of essays from their base in Nottingham- practising rather openly in broad daylight.

The CEO, in an interview with the Telegraph, has strongly denied that his company are facilitating cheating, stating that they are simply providing a service to overworked and rather stressed students, relieving them of the workload- he also went on to mention that the same students do not always return, hinting to the fact that many purchased an essay in times of stress and anxiety.

Despite this, the government are turning their attentions to cracking down on the essay writing services, calling fraud and plagiarism on the practice.

According to the Department of Education- the figures are shocking and need to be controlled; ‘Plagiarism is not acceptable and represents a clear threat to standards in our universities. We are looking closely at the issue of plagiarism in Higher Education and are having active discussions with the sector about what more can be done to tackle this unacceptable form of cheating.’

With moves to prevent the prevent the sale of bespoke essays, it appears that there is no way of getting around the university system, much to the horror of essay writing companies.