Contract cheating – defined as students submitting academic work that was completed by another person, often involving payment – is a hugely problematic phenomenon in higher education. Although the premise behind it has existed for quite some time, the internet has fuelled a burgeoning commercial contract-cheating industry of providers and consumers, to the point where it now threatens the integrity of the global education system.
Educators and educational leaders find it very difficult to recognise and counter this practice. In most jurisdictions, this practice is not illegal but even where there is legislation in place prosecutors have so far failed to take on any cases.
However, some agencies responsible for the quality of higher education are now starting to take notice. The UK’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) recently released a report about the contract-cheating problem and made recommendations about what must be done about it in the UK and around the world. The QAA report is a strong call to action.
Those of us who are academic integrity practitioners and researchers join the QAA in this call to action. To that end, we have planned an International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating and we invite institutions around the world to join us on that day to speak up and out against contract cheating. The educational community has been silent for too long about this problem. And silence can be interpreted as permission.
On 19 October, we ask that educational institutions join us in publicly declaring why contract cheating is wrong. Students, academics, teachers and professional staff can make “whiteboard declarations” and flood social media and the internet with these declarations using the hashtags #defeatthecheat and #excelwithintegrity.
Our goal is to garner the attention of the public, of our institutional leaders and of the government so that we can raise awareness about the scourge of the contract-cheating problem and inspire action against the companies and providers who are undermining global education systems.
In conjunction with the day of action, we will be releasing a toolkit to help institutions combat contract cheating on their campuses and in individual classrooms, and a legislative template to help institutions partner with government officials around the world to make contract cheating illegal.
We invite all institutions to join us on 19 October.