International Journal for Educational Integrity volume 13, Article number: 3 ( 2017 ) | Download Citation
Many strategies have now been proposed to address the usage of Essay Mills and other ‘contract cheating services that are students. These services generally offer bespoke custom-written essays or any other assignments to students in exchange for a fee. There has been calls for making use of legal approaches to tackle the issue. Here we see whether the united kingdom Fraud Act (2006) could be used to tackle a few of the activities of companies providing these types of services in the UK, by comparing their practises that are common and their conditions and terms, with all the Act. We found that most of the sites examined have disclaimers about the use of their products but there are some obvious contradictions in the actions of this sites which undermine these disclaimers, for instance all sites offer plagiarism-free guarantees for the task and at least eight have advertising which generally seems to contradict their conditions and terms. We identify possible areas where the Act could be used to follow a legal case but overall conclude that such an approach is unlikely to be effective. We call for a offence that is new be created in UK law which specifically targets the undesirable behaviours of the companies within the UK, although the principles could be applied elsewhere. We also highlight other UK legal approaches that may become more successful.
The usage so-called ‘contract cheating’ services by students has been a source of controversy and debate within Higher Education, particularly in the last decade. ‘Contract cheating’ refers, basically, to your outsourcing of assessments by students, to third parties who complete focus on their behalf in substitution for a fee or other benefit (Lancaster and Clarke 2016). These services offer ‘custom assignments’ of nearly every form, although custom written essays look like the most frequent. Students in many cases are in a position to specify the grade they need (even though there is no guarantee this will be delivered), request drafts, referencing styles and virtually any other custom feature (Newton and Lang More Help 2016). Services available are cheap and quick(Wallace and Newton 2014) and students underestimate the severity with which universities penalise the employment of contract cheating services (Newton 2015). Possibly the simplest arrangements are directly between students and ‘custom essay writing companies’, nearly all whom are ‘listed’ companies with sophisticated advertising campaigns. However there are lots of ways in which students can use third parties to complete work with them, utilizing the contract spread across continents; writers may work as freelancers, involved in another country into the student and their institution. These freelance article writers could make use of online auction services to market and organise their work and these can be in yet another national country, and there may be another intermediary; someone who receives the order through the student and then posts the task on an auction site (Newton and Lang 2016; Sivasubramaniam et al. 2016). Thus there are multiple actors in contract cheating, a number of of whom can be liable if their actions violate what the law states; students, their universities, the persons paying tuition fees, writers, those that employ writers, those sites which host the writers, advertising companies, those who host the advertising, and so forth. Here we focus primarily on UK-registered companies that are essay-writing.
Across education, a student who completes an evaluation to earn credit towards an award is usually needed to do so on the explicit basis that the submission is the own independent work. Ideally, both students and staff are given guidance in what constitutes academic misconduct and the consequences of such misconduct (Morris 2015), in a fashion that promotes a positive, constructive approach to fostering ‘academic integrity’ (Thomas and Scott 2016). If a student submits work that is proven to comprise, in whole or perhaps in part, material that is not their own independent work then that student will normally face a range of penalties, administered by their university, for academic misconduct. In the united kingdom these usually include cancellation of marks when it comes to relevant module or the relevant component of the module susceptible to any mitigating circumstances (Tennant and Duggan 2008). Historically, these behaviours haven’t been dealt with through legal mechanisms in britain (QAA 2016) and this relates to plagiarism outside academic circumstances which, within the words of Saunders,”. is certainly not if it breaches an established legal right, such as copyright, or offends against the law of misrepresentation or other legal rules” (Saunders 2010) in itself illegal; it is only illegal.
However, a widely used test to make legal decisions would be to figure out how a ‘reasonable person’ might view a behaviour that is particular. If asked to describe the purchasing of essays for submission when it comes to purposes of gaining credit that is academic seems logical to summarize that an acceptable person would conclude that such behaviour is ‘fraudulent’, particularly because of the language associated with it (e.g. ‘cheating’). Then they might reasonably be said to have assisted, conspired or colluded in such academic fraud, cheating or dishonesty if another individual has knowingly assisted in that activity.
Then it is clear that the student commits academic misconduct, but what of the individual or company that supplied the work in return for payment if a student has purchased written work from another individual or a company for the purpose of passing it off as his or her own work? As to what extent is that individual or company (an ‘assistor’) complicit this kind of misconduct? What is the potential liability of this assistor and certainly will action be taken against them? Will be the assistors by their action inciting academic fraud? An educational institution cannot normally take action against the assistor under internal disciplinary procedures unless the assistor is a student in the same institution. In addition, and maybe more to the point, will there be the possibility of fraudulent behaviour in the relationship involving the student and also the company?
Broadly, legal wrongs committed in England and Wales can be addressed through the civil or criminal law (UK Government 2016a). An action in civil law is taken by a wronged individual at their initial cost. This cost is generally prohibitive as well as normally requires the formulation of a claim recognised by the law that evidences loss or injury to the claimant that is individual by the defendant as well as which a remedy is sought. Thus the ability of educational institutions (or a student for that matter) to take action that is civil assistors is bound.
Action in relation to UK law that is criminal normally undertaken by and also at the expense of their state through the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) but requires a criminal offence to own been committed (private prosecutions at private cost are possible but relatively rare). The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out of the basic principles to be followed closely by Crown Prosecutors when they make case decisions. Crown Prosecutors should be satisfied there is evidence that is enough provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” and therefore it will be the public interest to pursue a prosecution (UK Government 2013).
An objective of the paper would be to measure the extent that a business organisation who supplies an essay or written work upon instructions from a student in substitution for money may be liable beneath the criminal law of England and Wales for an offence beneath the Fraud Act 2006 (The Act) (UK Government 2006). The Act commenced operation on 15 January 2007 because of the Fraud Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2006 SI 2006/3200. The Act applies to offences committed wholly on or after 15 January 2007 and extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Quality Assurance agency, considered all approaches to deal with contract cheating, a problem which they stated “poses a serious risk to the academic standards and the integrity of UK higher education” (QAA 2016) in August 2016 the UK regulator of Higher Education. Their consideration of possible legal approaches under existing law determined that the Fraud Act was the “nearest applicable legislation”, but they did not reach a strong conclusion on its use, stating that “Case law appears to indicate a reluctance regarding the the main courts to be involved in cases involving plagiarism, deeming this to be a matter for academic judgement that falls outside the competence associated with the court (Hines v Birkbeck College 1985 3 All ER 15)” (QAA 2016).
Inside their conclusion, the QAA state that the UK 2006 Fraud Act is “untested in this context”. Here we explore the detail for the Fraud Act further, and compare it into the established business practises of UK-registered essay-writing companies, with a focus that is particular their Terms and Conditions.