University backs ban of 'contract cheating' essay-writing mills

Classroom teaching and public events have been suspended at the UEA. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

UEA has backed a ban on essay mills - Credit: Archant

University students and staff are backing a law change stopping paid-for essay mills taking advantage of pressured pupils.

Under the government's Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, due to go through the House of Lords next week, essay-writing services will be made illegal in England.

The government intends to make it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise essay-writing business for financial gain to university and college students.

This should help protect frazzled students from falling prey to  “deceptive marketing techniques of contract cheating services”, according to the Department for Education.

UEA campus in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

UEA campus in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Dr Andrew Mayes, from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) School of Chemistry, said: "I am in general in favour of proportionate action that prevents cheating and gaming the system.

"I think it is correct to focus on the people selling the services, rather than the possibly confused/vulnerable/pressurised students who might succumb to the allure of an easy gain, for whatever reason.

Dr Andrew Mayes, from UEA. Photo: UEA

Dr Andrew Mayes, from UEA. Photo: UEA - Credit: UEA

"Universities have academic processes in place to deal with such cheating from the student side, as and when it is detected."

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Nicholas Baker, 27, who is in his first year of a master's degree in psychology at the UEA, said: "Myself or my friends have not been approached by anyone like that but it is a good change in the law. It is definitely a positive. It is terrifying that something like this could happen."

The student, from Wisbech, who completed a degree at the UEA in psychology in 2015 and wants to become a clinical psychologist, added: "The rest of us are doing the work. No-one would want to employ people who didn't do the work for a degree.

"There is a lot of pressure on university students, especially if you are used to getting high grades at school.

"The jump between uni and school is big and that can be overwhelming, especially if you get pulled into the culture of partying and drinking.

"Some could use essay mills because they want to keep up appearances that they are managing."

Alex Burghart, skills minister, added: “Essay mills are completely unethical and profit by undermining the hard work most students do."