Fluency can be all yours... for a small fee

April 7, 2006

Accusations of "spoon-feeding gone mad" were levelled at Bradford University this week when it emerged that it provides students with a list of professional proofreaders to help them correct poor English and improve their marks.

The revelation, made by a member of staff at Bradford's School of Management, has split opinion among academics.

Some said the practice amounted to cheating, others that it provided legitimate support for undergraduates with weak English language skills, such as overseas students or those with dyslexia.

The admission came from Colin Neville, an "effective learning officer", during an online discussion by university plagiarism experts last month.

Mr Neville said: "In our school, we have a list of proofreaders. In this context, the use of proofreaders could be regarded as offering opportunities to equalise a relationship in higher education that is weighted toward the home student... with good command of written English."

But the practice astounded Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, who described it as "spoon-feeding gone mad".

"If someone has a degree from an English university, it is taken as evidence by employers that they are fluent in English."

He said that work corrected by proofreaders reflected "ability to pay"

rather than academic ability.

Jude Carroll of Oxford Brookes University added that if the assessment criteria included proficiency in English language "then using a proofreader is passing off others' work as your own".

Geoff Layer, pro vice-chancellor for learning and teaching at Bradford, said his university had a robust policy on plagiarism.


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