With the passing of the 2022 Law on skills and post-16 education – more commonly known as the skills account – it is now a criminal offense in England to provide or arrange for essay writing services for a fee, or contractual cheating.
Although it is now also a crime to advertise such services, users will not be criminalized.
The move brings England in line with countries like Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.
“There is now a strengthened collaborative effort across the industry to address non-fiction mills and we want you to be part of this campaign,” said Skills Minister Alex Burghart in a letter to Internet Service Platforms.
“We are aware that in the past a large number of non-fiction have used your platform to promote their services to students, paying for advertising to promote their companies.
“Essay factories are now illegal entities and you shouldn’t carry their advertising. It is no longer a moral question; you will facilitate illegal activity.
The new legislation follows growing concern about the impact of non-fiction mills on higher education.
In February last year, former university minister Chris Skidmore filed a backbench motion to outlaw contractual scams, citing 2018 data suggesting 115,000 students at UK universities were buying essays.
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“These so-called essay mills are a rot that infects the discipline of learning itself and has the potential to irreparably damage academic integrity,” said Skidmore.
“It is sad to say that this is a rot that is spreading, not only in higher education, but in all forms and levels of education, from schools to higher education institutions. The online presence of non-fiction and their websites, which encourage contract fraud, is all-pervasive. “
In June 2020, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has published guidance on how the sector should address this issuefollowing a research by Channel 4 according to which universities detected less than one percent of the essays acquired.
The outlaw mills of sages was welcomed by Turnitin, an online plagiarism detection service that worked with Skidmore prior to its backbench move.
“With around one in seven students falling prey to non-fiction, we wholeheartedly support the government’s decision to act on what is a growing problem in UK universities,” said Aaron Yaverski, Regional Vice President for Europe at Turnitin.
“Essay makers use clever marketing techniques to deliberately target students who may be feeling anxious or vulnerable. We have seen that essay makers sponsor articles that appear as reliable news in an effort to ensure that their practices are not immoral. “
Yaverski also supported the move to criminalize the service provider rather than the user.
“In many cases, academic misconduct is unintentional, a skills and knowledge gap,” he added.
“Students may not be aware that using non-fiction is wrong, particularly when the companies behind them are using such persuasive and manipulative marketing techniques.”
The skills bill outlaws non-fiction mills
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