News updates

Are Essay Mills fraud that is committing? An analysis of their behaviours vs the 2006 Fraud Act (UK)

Are Essay Mills fraud that is committing? An analysis of their behaviours vs the 2006 Fraud Act (UK)

International Journal for Educational Integrity volume 13, Article number: 3 ( 2017 ) | Download Citation

Many strategies have already been proposed to handle making use 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 were calls for the utilization of legal methods to tackle the situation. Here we see whether the UK Fraud Act (2006) might be used to tackle a number of the activities of companies providing these types of services in the UK, by comparing their common practises, and their Terms and Conditions, with the Act. We unearthed that most of the sites examined have disclaimers about the use of their products or services but there are many contradictions that are obvious the actions of this sites which undermine these disclaimers, as an example all sites offer plagiarism-free guarantees for the task and at least eight have advertising which seems to contradict their conditions and terms. We identify possible areas in which the Act might be used to pursue a case that is legal overall conclude that such a method is unlikely to work. We call for a new offence to be created in UK law which specifically targets the undesirable behaviours among these companies when you look at the UK, even though the principles might be applied elsewhere. We also highlight other UK approaches that are legal may become more successful.


Making use of so-called ‘contract cheating’ services by students has been a way to obtain controversy and debate within Higher Education, particularly in the decade that is last. ‘Contract cheating’ refers prices, basically, towards the outsourcing of assessments by students, to third parties who complete focus on their behalf in return for a fee or some other benefit (Lancaster and Clarke 2016). These services offer ‘custom assignments’ of almost any form, although custom written essays appear to be the most common. Students in many cases are able to specify the grade they desire (even though there is no guarantee this is delivered), request drafts, referencing styles and nearly every other custom feature (Newton and Lang 2016). Services available are quick and cheap (Wallace and Newton 2014) and students underestimate the severe nature with which universities penalise the application of contract cheating services (Newton 2015). Perhaps 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 numerous ways that students may use third parties to complete work for them, utilizing the contract spread across continents; writers may act as freelancers, working in another country towards the student and their institution. These freelance home writers will make use of online auction services to market and organise their work and these can be in still another national country, and there might be another intermediary; somebody 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 you can find multiple actors in contract cheating, more than one of whom could be liable if their actions violate the law; students, their universities, the persons tuition that is paying, writers, those who employ writers, the internet sites which host the writers, advertising companies, those who host the advertising, an such like. Here we focus primarily on UK-registered essay-writing companies.

Across education, a student who completes an assessment to make credit towards an award is generally required to do so regarding the explicit basis that the submission is the own independent work. Ideally, both students and staff are given guidance as to what constitutes misconduct that is academic the consequences of such misconduct (Morris 2015), in a manner that promotes an optimistic, constructive approach to fostering ‘academic integrity’ (Thomas and Scott 2016). Then that student will normally face a range of penalties, administered by their university, for academic misconduct if a student submits work that is shown to comprise, in whole or in part, material that is not their own independent work. These usually include cancellation of marks for the relevant module or the relevant component of the module subject to any mitigating circumstances (Tennant and Duggan 2008) in the UK. Historically, these behaviours haven’t been dealt with through legal mechanisms in the UK (QAA 2016) and this relates to plagiarism outside academic circumstances which, when you look at the words of Saunders,”. just isn’t 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 commonly used test in creating legal decisions would be to regulate how a ‘reasonable person’ might view a behaviour that is particular. If asked to explain the purchasing of essays for submission when it comes to purposes of gaining academic credit it seems logical to close out that a fair person would conclude that such behaviour is ‘fraudulent’, particularly because of the language related to 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? From what extent is that individual or company (an ‘assistor’) complicit in such misconduct? What’s the liability that is potential of assistor and can action be taken against them? Are the assistors by their action inciting academic fraud? Unless the assistor is a student in the same institution an educational institution cannot normally take action up against the assistor under internal disciplinary procedures. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, is there the chance of fraudulent behaviour when you look at the relationship involving the learning student additionally the company?

Broadly, legal wrongs committed in England and Wales might 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 oftentimes prohibitive and also normally requires the formulation of a claim recognised by the law that evidences loss or injury to the individual claimant caused by the defendant and for which a fix is sought. Thus the ability of educational institutions (or a student for example) to take civil action against assistors is limited.

Action pertaining to UK criminal law is normally undertaken by and also at the price 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 the basic principles to be accompanied by Crown Prosecutors if they make case decisions. Crown Prosecutors should be satisfied that there is enough evidence to provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” and therefore this is the public interest to follow a prosecution (UK Government 2013).

An objective of this paper is to gauge the extent that a company organisation who supplies an essay or written work upon instructions from a student in return for money might be liable underneath the law that is criminal of and Wales for an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 (The Act) (UK Government 2006). The Act commenced operation on 15 January 2007 by the Fraud Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2006 SI 2006/3200. The Act relates to offences committed wholly on or after 15 2007 and extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland january.

In August 2016 the united kingdom regulator of Higher Education, the Quality Assurance agency, considered all approaches to cope with contract cheating, a challenge which they stated “poses a serious risk towards the academic standards plus the integrity of UK higher education” (QAA 2016). Their consideration of possible legal approaches under existing law concluded that the Fraud Act was the “nearest applicable legislation”, but they would not reach a strong conclusion on its use, stating that “Case law seems to indicate a reluctance on the area of the courts to be engaged in cases involving plagiarism, deeming this to be a matter for academic judgement that falls outside of the competence of the court (Hines v Birkbeck College 1985 3 All ER 15)” (QAA 2016).

The QAA state that the UK 2006 Fraud Act is “untested in this context” in their conclusion. Here we explore the detail associated with the Fraud Act further, and compare it towards the established business practises of UK-registered essay-writing companies, with a particular give attention to their Terms and Conditions.