I’m sure you’ve all received at least one message, email, tweet, DM from someone part of a company offering to help write you assignments, I know I have! Only a few weeks ago someone messaged me on LinkedIn offering to help with my exams.
Using unauthorised sources of information during online, remote exams and assessments such as platforms like essay mills and sites such as Chegg are against the University’s rules for exams (Rule 2; Conduct of Examinations, the Academic Integrity Statement for Remote Exams and exam instructions/rubrics).
Essay mills exploit students and whilst they may appear as a simple way to do minimal work and get a decent grade, are not. They pry on students who are likely to be stressed with deadlines and exams, and do not provide the solution you may be searching for as it is incredibly likely you will be caught and the University takes offences such as this very seriously (you could be asked to retake the exam or even expelled). All whilst undermining the integrity of higher education.
More recently the Department for Education, with support from Chris Skidmore (former universities minister), have started to investigate the impact of essay mills and are advising ministers on how best to tackle the issues of contract cheating including legislative options such as a private bill outlawing essay mills. Michelle Donelan (the current universities minister) has acknowledge that:
“Degree fraud cheats both learners and employers and has no place at all in our higher education system.
“This Government is committed to tackling academic misconduct, and upholding the hard work of students, especially during this difficult time.”
QAA has recently published a government backed Academic Integrity Charter for British Universities, at Senate on the 21st April I raised the importance for the University of Bath to sign up to this charter to continue supporting students and withholding the high academic standards whilst cracking down on academic misconduct.
BetterByU is a campaign set up by Education Officers called the Academic Integrity Collective across the UK which the SU Bath are supporting. It is campaigning against essay mills and can be found on twitter @AcademicInteg. There is this excellent blog on WonkHE explaining how and why students can find themselves getting caught out - SU Officers are waging war against essay mills.
What to do in the mean time?
- If you are contacted by an essay mill – report it.
- If you feel you wont be able to complete your exam or assessment, speak to your DoS or Personal Tutor who will be able to offer help and support you.
- Raise awareness of the dangers of using essay mills with your peers.
What we are doing?
- Supporting the #BetterByU Campaign.
- Lobbying the University to sign up to the Academic Integrity Charter set out by QAA.
Whilst essay mills are not currently illegal (hopefully soon they will be), we strongly encourage you to report any service that gets in touch with you and not to use them.
The University have created a webpage with more information. This can be found here!
Sources of Support Before, During, and After Assessments
We understand that assessment periods can be very stressful, especially in the current climate. We have a range of services available to provide support and guidance for you to ensure that you are ready for your assessments and able to uphold ethical scholarship practices. The following are here to help you:
Academic Integrity Webpages – these pages contain links to our digital training package, the Ethical Scholar Toolkit, which provides guidance on referencing and avoiding plagiarism, as well as a referencing database. There is also a link to the University’s regulatory document, QA53, and a summary of your responsibilities as a student for maintaining your own academic integrity.
Academic Integrity Statement for Remote Assessment – a reminder of your agreement with the University to uphold our community’s ethical standards.
The Skills Centre – our experienced staff in the Skills Centre can provide group or individual assistance on developing assessment skills and helping you to solve challenges you are facing with your academic work.
The Library – our expert librarians are available to help you with your research skills, referencing support, and finding appropriate resources for your studies.
The Wellbeing Service – our professionals are here to provide advice and support on student wellbeing and welfare throughout your degree.
Student Support Services – our team are available to provide assistance with your needs and to help you get the most out of your degree.
SU Advice and Support Centre – the SU advisors offer confidential, non-judgemental information, advice and support on any issues you may be facing during your degree.
Exams and Assessment hub – Information available on what to do if you cannot take or continue with your exam or if you think your attempt might be affected, as well as links to many of the pages listed above.