Essay mills, ghost writing and contract cheating

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With the first set of assignment deadlines fast approaching many of you might have received spam emails from companies offering ‘advisory’ or ‘example’ essay services to help ease the pressure of deadline hand ins. Paying to use one of these services however is known as contract cheating.

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating is where a student pays someone else to write an essay for them and then submits it as their own. For example a student might submit an assignment brief to a website, along with the deadline and decide what grade they would like to receive and will then pay accordingly. As with other assessment offences such as plagiarism and collusion, this is taken extremely seriously by the university and can have implications when a student is being assessed by an employer for professional suitability.

Talking to Iain Mossman, Head of Student and Academic Policy Enhancement at UWE Bristol, contract cheating is becoming a real worry as it undermines the genuine efforts of other students. In addition, the companies or essay mills offering these services target stressed students with spam emails during the busiest hand in periods. There have also been examples of students being blackmailed by the companies for additional fees after assignments have been submitted.

The key therefore is to help the university identify these companies and the promotional emails they send out and to make you aware of the support options available to you should you feel like there is no other alternative.

What to look out for

As already mentioned, the company might claim that you’ll only be paying for a model or example essay but in the same breath guarantee the grade you ordered. When challenged, many of these companies state they never expect students to submit the essay. They might also quote testimonials from happy customers to try and normalise the service to suggest it isn’t cheating. They might also list clients from top universities to show it happens everywhere.

What to do if you’re feeling the pressure

The key for us is to raise awareness and make sure that you know the options available to you so that you never feel the need to use one of these companies and jeopardise your experience of university. If you receive one of their emails do not respond and simply forward it to blockthecheaters@uwe.ac.uk and our specialised team will block these emails from getting to students in the first place.

More importantly though, if you are feeling overwhelmed remember you can speak to your Academic Personal Tutor if you have concerns about your course; we also have a wealth of study tools and wellbeing support to help you manage your deadlines, discuss your worries and get back on track.