Why Is Contract Cheating A Breach of Academic Integrity?
Fri, September 30, 2022

Why Is Contract Cheating A Breach of Academic Integrity?


There is a growing concern surrounding students purchasing ghostwritten essays from online markets or platforms to pass them off as their own work, stated Tovia Smith of NPR (National Public Radio), a non-profit media organization. For students, it’s tempting to ask a ghostwriter to write their essay for them. One college freshman, who struggled to accomplish her English assignment, said, "We didn't really have a format to follow, so I was kind of lost on what to do."

She tweeted her frustration and in a few minutes, she was bombarded with a half-dozen offers of help. They tweeted, “I can write for you. Send us the prompt.”  The student chose one that requested for $10 a page, which was a relief.

She noted that the work kept piling up, as she had to accomplish lots of assignments for other subjects. “And even though I do my best to manage, the deadlines come closer and closer, and it's just ... the pressure,” she added.

Research Highlights Academic Integrity In Australian Universities (2014)

Tracey Bretag and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate conducted a survey on academic integrity at six Australian Universities, which involved 15,304 participants that represented approximately 9% of the total students enrolled across the six universities and 10.8% of students who were approached to answer the survey.

The researchers found that 64.5% had heard of academic integrity and thought they had a good idea about its definition.15% of students said they had never heard of it and were not sure what it meant. 4.4% of total students and 8.8% of international students had never heard of academic integrity and were unsure of what it meant. Only 26.5% of students reported first hearing the term at their current university. 80.3% of them said they were first informed about academic integrity at their current university via orientation (30.4%), course/subject information (30%), and lectures/tutorials (19.9%).

89.2% of survey respondents agreed that the information they received about academic integrity at their university was sufficient. 82.6% said the information they received about how to avoid breaches in academic integrity is sufficient. However, 68.2% stated that the support and training they received to avoid breaches in academic integrity at their university is sufficient. 92.1% also agreed that academic integrity has relevance to their life or work experience outside the university.

When asked about the respondents’ experience of academic integrity breach process, 1.3% of students (1% of domestic students and 3.2% of international students) received a letter about an academic integrity issue. 1.7% (1.4% versus 2.8%) had a meeting with a university staff member and 1.5% (1.3% versus 2.8%) had their marks reduced as a penalty.

The researchers concluded that universities should consider the most appropriate ways to involve students in fostering a culture of integrity. This might include information on the outcomes of academic integrity breach investigations. Universities should also offer targeted support to international students, postgraduate research students, and other vulnerable students who are unfamiliar with the meaning and practices of academic integrity.



Contract Cheating In Universities (2014)

Dan Rigby and colleagues of Research Gate gathered 90 students for their study. 72 spoke English as their first language and 83% took their pre-university examinations in a UK educational institution. 10 of the 90 students knew one or more people who bought an essay (22% of English as an Additional Language (EAL) students and 8% of non-EAL). 10 had been warned over their use of sources previously (17% versus 10%). Students who are less risk-averse and who are EAL were more likely to “purchase” essays. Making general claims should be avoided considering the small sample size.



What Is Contract Cheating?

It is a serious form of academic dishonesty, stated the University of Sydney, Australia’s leading university. Contract cheating involves asking someone else to complete your assignments or course work for you such as a private tutor, a friend, or an assignment writing service. It is also done without the permission or the acknowledgment of your instructors. It is called “contract cheating” because the process involves some form of exchange or contract between two or more individuals. It is still contract cheating whether it involves money or not.



Why Is Contract Cheating Bad?

The student doesn’t think she’s cheating as the person pays someone to write an essay, which written from scratch and is not plagiarized. Other students resort to contract cheating to keep up with school work whether they are buying essays online or getting them from family or friends.

The University of Sydney argued that contracting cheating is bad because a student can be suspended from their studies or lose their student visa if they are an international student. It also undermines the value of one’s university degree, making people doubt their skills and knowledge. There are even essay writing services that blackmail a student’s personal information. Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, posed as a student and ordered papers from several ghostwriting companies.

Most of the papers sent to him were “gibberish” and a third of them were plagiarized. When Professor Ariely complained and requested a refund, the company blackmailed that they will the school that he was cheating. Some companies threatened students to pay more money or else they will report them to their school.

How Can Contract Cheating Be Discouraged?

Bertram Gallant of UC San Diego said education should be centered on “creating a culture where integrity and ethics matter” and where it is valued more than grades. This will help students believe that cheating on essay writing is only cheating themselves.

Assessments should be redesigned to address contract cheating, argued Jedidiah Evans of The Conversation, a news and analysis website. Assessments should reflect the demands of the real world that the students will face after graduation. Instead of asking students to write essays, instructors can tell the students to interview a local non-profit organization and produce a podcast about it.

Understanding the rationale of students who are willing to pay for assessments and course work shed light on the problem of tertiary education as a whole—particularly the perception of knowledge as a “product” to be purchased from third parties. It should be something to be pursued by devoted teachers and students.

We might think of contract cheaters as students who are too lazy to do their own work, but there are those who are struggling to keep up with school. Education is still centered on grades and not gaining the necessary knowledge to face the real world. 

Universities should support students who are struggling to practice and maintain academic integrity in the institution. Higher education should foster a culture of academic integrity and a lifelong pursuit of knowledge.