University leaders across the UK are joining forces to demand that essay-writing companies be made illegal in the country. In a letter, submitted today to The Right Honourable Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, 46 education executives demanded an end to "essay mills."
An increasing problem
"We are writing to urge you to take action against the increasing problem of so-called essay mills, companies that facilitate contract cheating by producing assignments-to-order for students. Essay mills undermine the integrity of UK Higher Education and are unfair to the vast majority of honest, hard-working students," read the statement.
The university chiefs asked that steps be taken to curb these practices including a legislative ban on both essay mills operations and advertising. In addition, a petition to ban these so-called "cheating" services was also posted on the UK Government and Parliament petitions' site.
Hartpury Vice-Chancellor Russell Marchant is one of 46 leading university figures to sign a letter to the Secretary of State urging action against ‘essay mills’. Sign the petition to ban the provision and advertising of cheating services ? https://t.co/p8w8QhSHSu pic.twitter.com/IExEktUnhw— Hartpury (@Hartpury) September 27, 2018
"'Essay mills' provide custom written essays for students to cheat with. Prices range from a couple of hundred pounds for a single essay to over £6,750 for a PhD dissertation. This undermines the high standards of universities and is unfair to honest students - but is currently legal," states the petition.
The post claims there are "over 100 essay mills websites currently in operation" and has already received nearly 5,000 signatures. At 10,000 the petition will see a response from the government.
Legislation not off the table
Meanwhile, universities minister Sam Gyimah took to Twitter to express his support for essay-mills curbing measures in a series of tweets. The official said that "legislative options" were not off the table but that he expected the institutions to also take steps to "tackle" the issue.
Today's news on essay mills reveals the scale of the black market available to students - these services are normalising and enabling cheating, but also trying to devalue the quality of our degrees and put our world-class reputation at risk. 1/4— Sam Gyimah MP (@SamGyimah) September 27, 2018
More importantly, Gyimah emphasized the importance of universities as learning institutions that should not encourage students to take the easy way out. "Students work incredibly hard to get a place at university and those who choose to cheat risk throwing it all away, cheating their futures, for the sake of a short-cut," wrote the minister.
According to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Education, as many as one in seven recent graduates may have used the shady writing services during the last four years. However, some believe that the key to ending essay cheating is to simply inspire students to be more passionate about their course load.
Banning essay mills won't work- universities must offer a more inspiring concept of education if they want to stop contract cheating. By me from earlier this year: https://t.co/9os5QLS2a0— Joanna Williams (@jowilliams293) September 27, 2018
Time will tell how this situation unfolds, however, a little inspiration can go a long way.