Stuart Macdonald is wholesale in his condemnation: of universities (“not much concerned with learning”), students (“struggle to write a postcard, never mind an essay”), the government (“has not noticed or does not care”) and the Quality Assurance Agency (“not a particularly serious problem”) in his attack on the work we are doing to combat essay mills (“It’s not essay mills that are doing the grinding”, Opinion, 25 May).
In his own longer blog post, he describes essay mills as “enterprising organisations”, praises the “tutoring and social support” that some of them offer, and says that “the quality of work [they provide] can be very good”. He complains that their critics are ignoring the “more nuanced” approach that some academics take.
Here’s what we say: commissioning an author to write an essay and then passing it off as your own work is academic misconduct. No ifs, no buts, no appreciation of the “support” the essay site may have offered, no differentiation based on the quality of the essay provided, no “nuanced” argument.
Contrary to the author’s assertion, this has always been our position and that of the many academic staff who have worked with us to raise awareness of this problem. It is also the position of anyone who cares about the quality and reputation of our world-leading university sector.
Earlier this year, we lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority on advertising by essay companies. Students using these services are not “lazy, disorganised and naive”, but they are being targeted by sophisticated and unscrupulous organisations, and they need to know the risks involved for their academic and professional careers.
Standards and frameworks officer
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education