Are Essay Mills committing fraud? An analysis of these 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 address the employment of Essay Mills along with other ‘contract cheating services that are students. These services generally offer bespoke custom-written essays or other assignments to students in exchange for a fee. There have been calls for the utilization of legal approaches to tackle the problem. Here we see whether the UK Fraud Act (2006) may be used to tackle some of the activities of companies providing these services when you look at the UK, by comparing their practises that are common and their conditions and terms, because of the Act. We found that all of the sites examined have disclaimers about the use of their products but there are many obvious contradictions in the actions regarding the sites which undermine these disclaimers, as an customwriting example all sites offer plagiarism-free guarantees for the job and also at least eight have advertising which appears to contradict their conditions and terms. We identify possible areas where the Act could be used to follow a legal case but overall conclude that such an approach is unlikely to be effective. We call for a new offence to be created in UK law which specifically targets the undesirable behaviours of the companies within the UK, even though the principles might be applied elsewhere. We also highlight other UK approaches that are legal may become more successful.

Introduction

The utilization of so-called ‘contract cheating’ services by students happens to be a source of controversy and debate within Higher Education, particularly within the decade that is last. ‘Contract cheating’ refers, basically, into the outsourcing of assessments by students, to third parties who complete focus on their behalf in substitution for a fee or other benefit (Lancaster and Clarke 2016). These types of services offer ‘custom assignments’ of almost any form, although custom written essays appear to be the most common. Students are often able to specify the grade they want (although there isn’t any guarantee this will be delivered), request drafts, referencing styles and almost any other custom feature (Newton and Lang 2016). Services available are cheap and quick(Wallace and Newton 2014) and students underestimate the severe nature with which universities penalise the use of contract cheating services (Newton 2015). Possibly the simplest arrangements are directly between students and essay that is‘custom companies’, many of whom are ‘listed’ companies with sophisticated advertising campaigns. However there are many ways in which students may use third parties to complete work for them, utilizing the contract spread across continents; writers may behave as freelancers, doing work in a different country towards the student and their institution. These freelance writers can make usage of online auction services to advertise and organise their work and these may be in just one more country, and there could be another intermediary; someone who receives the order through the student and then posts the work on an auction site (Newton and Lang 2016; Sivasubramaniam et al. 2016). Thus you can find multiple actors in contract cheating, a number of of whom can be liable if their actions violate the law; students, their universities, the persons paying tuition fees, writers, those who employ writers, the internet sites which host the writers, advertising companies, those who host the advertising, and so on. Here we focus primarily on UK-registered companies that are essay-writing.

Across education, a student who completes an assessment to make credit towards an award is normally expected to do so in the explicit basis that the submission is their own independent work. Ideally, both students and staff are given guidance in what constitutes misconduct that is academic the effects of such misconduct (Morris 2015), in a fashion 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. In the united kingdom these usually include cancellation of marks when it comes to relevant module or even the relevant element of the module at the mercy of any mitigating circumstances (Tennant and Duggan 2008). Historically, these behaviours have not been dealt with through legal mechanisms in the UK (QAA 2016) and this pertains to plagiarism outside academic circumstances which, into the words of Saunders,”. is not in itself illegal; it really is only illegal if it breaches a well established legal right, such as copyright, or offends resistant to the law of misrepresentation or other legal rules” (Saunders 2010).

However, a widely used test in making legal decisions is always to decide how a ‘reasonable person’ might view a particular behaviour. If asked to describe the purchasing of essays for submission when it comes to purposes of gaining academic credit it seems logical to conclude that a fair person would conclude that such behaviour is ‘fraudulent’, particularly given the language connected with 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 potential liability associated with assistor and certainly will action be used against them? Are the assistors by their action inciting academic fraud? An educational institution cannot normally take action against the assistor under internal disciplinary procedures unless the assistor is a student in the same institution. In addition, and maybe more to the point, is there the possibility of fraudulent behaviour in the relationship involving the student and also the company?

Broadly, legal wrongs committed in England and Wales may 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 normally prohibitive and also normally requires the formulation of a claim recognised because of the law that evidences loss or damage to the individual claimant caused by the defendant and for which a fix is sought. Thus the capability 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 at the expense of the 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 principles that are basic be followed by Crown Prosecutors when they make case decisions. Crown Prosecutors should be satisfied that there is evidence that is enough provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” and therefore it will be the public interest to pursue a prosecution (UK Government 2013).

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

In August 2016 the UK regulator of Higher Education, the standard Assurance agency, considered all methods to deal with contract cheating, a problem that they stated “poses a critical risk towards the academic standards additionally the integrity of UK higher education” (QAA 2016). Their consideration of possible legal approaches under existing law determined that the Fraud Act was the “nearest applicable legislation”, but they failed to reach a strong conclusion on its use, stating that “Case law appears to indicate a reluctance from the the main courts to be concerned in cases involving plagiarism, deeming this to be a matter for academic judgement that falls away from competence regarding the court (Hines v Birkbeck College 1985 3 All ER 15)” (QAA 2016).

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

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