Copycat worlds

June 15, 2017

Simon Bullock, speaking for the Quality Assurance Agency, plays a wonderfully straight bat when he declares that the QAA will not tolerate students resorting to essay mills (“Using an essay mill is cheating – no ifs, no buts”, Letters, 8 June). It’s just not cricket. “No ifs, no buts”, he declares in the phraseology made notorious by David Cameron’s irresolute refusal to contemplate another runway at Heathrow.

Plagiarism, the form of cheating used by essay mill customers, is rife. Senior managers in organisations of all sorts present as their own what was written by their juniors. So do university managers, and academics, spurred on by the demands of a regime that measures quality by counting publications. The plagiarism policies with which universities decorate their websites are often themselves plagiarised. Even the QAA’s report on essay mills, Plagiarism in Higher Education, itself borrows (in small part) from other sources.

One might not approve of them – and I do not (see “It’s not essay mills that are doing the grinding”, Opinions, 25 May, and – but essay mills are part of the real world of higher education. In this nasty reality, they seem almost more honest than a finger-wagging, self-righteous QAA. Bullock prudishly objects to my description of essay mills as “enterprising”. One has only to google “Simon Bullock QAA” to be put straight through to the websites of several essay mills.

Stuart Macdonald
Visiting professor
School of Management
University of Leicester

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