Having supported moves to ban services that offer ready-made essays to students for a fee, Jisc is delighted to hear that the government is now taking steps to outlaw this unethical practice.
Jisc runs the national degree verification service, Hedd and campaigns to combat education fraud by shutting down bogus providers and vendors of fake degree certificates.
As part of a cross-sector academic integrity advisory group, Jisc supported Chris Skidmore MP in February with his widely-supported Bill to ban essay mills.
The Department for Education has now taken on the challenge by announcing an amendment to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill – currently working its way through Parliament - that would make it a criminal offence to “provide, arrange or advertise…cheating services for financial gain to students taking a qualification at any institution in England providing post-16 education, including universities”.
Until now, it has not been illegal to buy assignments from essay mills, but students passing that work off as their own are guilty of contract cheating and face serious consequences if caught.
This fraudulent practice is not the only driver for a ban on essay mills, however.
In August, Jisc and the higher education Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) warned universities to be vigilant against an emerging cyber security threat from essay mills.
Criminals behind the platforms are attempting to dupe students and cash in by hacking into university websites and placing content for their own ends that appears to be legitimate and aligns with university services.
Jisc’s executive director of student services, Jayne Rowley, says:
“Essay mills are not only a threat to the integrity of our education system, but they unscrupulously play on the fears of vulnerable students.
“The hacking practice that emerged earlier this year was further cause for alarm and indicates the lengths these contract cheating sites will go to for a profit.
“I’m delighted the government is heeding the calls from across the education sector to make essay mills illegal.”
For advice about how to combat hacking and other security threats, sign up now for the Jisc security conference, 9-11 November 2021.