Australian university students outsource assignments as cost of living pressures weigh
Australian university students are outsourcing their assignments as cost of living pressures weigh on – and experts say it could have dire consequences once they enter working life.
Contract fraud, where students pay someone else to complete their assignments for them, is increasingly common.
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Websites advertise the services, in some cases promising a 1000-word essay that will pass plagiarism checks, for as little as $20.
Dr Guy Curtis from the University of Western Australia told 7NEWS.com.au that according to his research, up to one in 10 students commit the offence.
Of these, 95% were not taken.
Curtis, who co-edited the soon-to-be-published book Contract Cheating In Higher Education, said students who spoke English as a second language were more likely to cheat.
“It’s hard to study at university,” he says.
“It’s even more difficult to study when it’s not your mother tongue.
“It only increases the pressure on students to put themselves in a position where they think they can’t do a good enough job, or that they need help.”
Universities have strict requirements, especially for international students, to prove their English proficiency before being accepted into a course.
A test used by many institutions is the International English Language Testing System. But some candidates circumvent this selection by paying someone else to take the test for them.
“The other thing is when the students are there and if they get over these things, we have to, ideally, pick up the students who have poor English and help them out,” Curtis said.
“Otherwise we should take back students who have unsatisfactory English and discontinue their enrolment.”
Another contributing factor, he said, is that students are grappling with the rising cost of living.
With accommodation, food and education expenses increasing with rising inflation, students have to work longer hours.
This means that they have fewer hours to study and, with the deadlines getting longer, they feel the need to outsource their assignments.
According to the federal government‘s Study Australia website, students should budget up to $700 per week for non-accommodation expenses, including groceries, bills and transportation.
The Home Office has financial requirements for international students to obtain a visa to study in Australia.
Students and guardians need more than AU$21,000 to even be considered for a visa.
Inflation is also currently at 6.1% and is expected to have risen again with the next updated data release in October.
Curtis said students are commonly introduced to contract cheating online.
“There are websites where students can ask a question and get an answer in about 20 minutes,” Curtis said.
“Now if they take an online test and they have an open deadline or something, they can just take all the questions, ask them on one of these websites, ask someone other to give them all the answers, then insert all those answers into the test they take.
A quick Google search will uncover several dozen pages offering contract cheating services.
Some advertise the sale of a personalized trial as being able to be used at the “discretion” of the buyer.
But Curtis warns the problem could quickly spiral out of control.
Last month, medical students at the University of Oxford were forced to retake an exam over allegations of cheating and leaking information.
The six-year degree is ranked as the best medical degree in the world by Times Higher Education and is one of the most competitive to enroll in.
Dr Sanja Thompson, chair of the examiners, wrote that it was “impossible” to know how many students had cheated, so the whole year would have to retake the exam.
“You know, if this can happen at Oxford University Medical School, the chances of it not happening anywhere else are pretty much zero,” Thomson said.
But what are the consequences of contract fraud?
It might not come up initially, Curtis conceded, but a student who “doesn’t know his trade” might eventually graduate.
“It’s really scary because you’d hope a doctor knows what they’re doing, for example,” he said.
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