Despite popular belief, contract cheating is more prevalent in Australian institutions than many would expect. According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Western Australia, one in every ten students across Australia’s institutions is guilty of paying someone to create assignments or take online examinations on their behalf.
Contract cheating is a form of academic dishonesty that occurs in educational institutes. It is an unethical and illegal practice that may occur when students are offered incentives for providing their own answers to exam questions or for giving other students their answers.
The most serious form of cheating is also the most difficult to detect, and it is occurring at a higher rate than previously assumed. It was estimated that between 2-4 per cent of Australian institution students submitted projects that had been authored by someone else. According to recent research, the true figure is closer to 8-11 per cent. Furthermore, almost 95% of students who engage in this type of cheating do not get caught.
Using essays and reports to exhibit learning, assignments allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material. If the assignment is written by someone else, it is possible that a student will graduate without knowing something that they are meant to know. Contract cheating is the term used to describe when students arrange for someone else to do an assignment on their behalf. Numerous students were involved in contract cheating cases that made headlines, such as the MyMaster affair, which involved thousands of students.
Even at the most affected institutions, however, this represented less than 0.2 per cent of all students. According to polls, at least ten times as many students (2-4 per cent) admit to engaging in contract cheating.
The reason why contract cheating happens in educational institutes is because of the lack of transparency and trust between the institution and its students. The lack of trust between the two parties leads to a lack of respect for each other’s rights and responsibilities.
Contract cheating is not just limited to universities but it can also happen in the vocational education and training sector and even secondary schools.
The main reasons for this are the following:
- Financial pressures on the students.
- The easy way out for the students.
- Students are not aware of their rights and responsibilities as a student.
- Students believe cheating is okay as there are no or very few repercussions.
- Students lack good morals or are good at gaming the system.
- Students might be afraid of failing or not being able to finish their degree due to a lack of time or resources.
- Students may not be taught how to create quality work
- Students may lack motivation and don’t want to spend time on a project because they are too busy with other activities
- Students may have been taught that plagiarism is wrong, but contract cheating seems like a way around this
- Students feel pressured to do well because of the high-stakes nature of the exams.
- Lack of clarity around what is expected, which leads to uncertainty and stress.
- The system has not been designed to cater for students with special needs or those who require more time to complete.
This often happens when students are unaware of the severity of contract cheating and how it can affect their future opportunities in education and training.
One article by ‘Times Higher Education’ states approximately “5% of all students surveyed said they had previously paid someone else to do their work” which shows that there are many who resort to contract cheating since studying takes up most or all of their lives, leaving little room for other sources of income which could lead these individuals into debt.
Another article on ‘Times Higher Education’ mentions that without a source of income and having to study full time, one may choose not to submit their own work since they may feel like they lack the time or capacity to complete assignments. The same article also talks about how some universities have strict rules against plagiarism which makes it difficult for students who are so used to doing this when faced with an essay question. They mention how “some students described being in exam situations when the script contained quotes from several different sources”, so contract cheating could provide them with enough space in their essays to quote various sources, while still getting good grades.