Cheating at a number of universities across the UK has more than doubled over the last decade, according to data obtained by The Telegraph.
The figures show that the number of students formally investigated for academic malpractice was as high as four times the number five years ago at some institutions, such as Leeds University.
Others, like Cardiff University, reported a drop in academic misconduct, but a rise in “collusion” offenses, where students pay others to do work for them.
The rise in cheating has been linked to the growth of ‘essay mills’, otherwise known as contract cheating – online services that allow students to pay somebody to write their essays for them. These websites, although against most universities’ academic conduct codes, are not currently illegal in the UK.
A University of Manchester spokesperson told The Telegraph that the university has recently added new clauses to its plagiarism procedures to tackle the use of essay mills specifically.
“Contract cheating is a difficult area to police and there are a number of external services marketing themselves to students around this area.”
Contract cheating can be difficult to identify, given that the essays are written by other human beings rather than bots. Over the last ten years, essay mills have become increasingly common, with the labour being traced back to countries like Kenya, India, and Pakistan.
Advertising of essay mills on university campuses and online has also become increasingly common, with vice president of the European Network for Academic Integrity Dr Irene Glendinning saying students are “bombarded”.
In a survey conducted by The Mancunion last year, one student said that, although they had never used an essay mill, they could “see the appeal”. Another said that their friend spent £600 on an essay mill for his dissertation, “and it was so bad quality he had to write it himself anyway”.