Suit you, Sir?

Fancy getting an A+ or a First in you coursework?

Well of course you do – but would you pay an essay writing service a fair bit of money (say £60 for 1000 words) to do it for you and then submit that work as your own?

There are a number of essay writing services who advertise their services on the net quite openly. I am not going to give them the oxygen of publicity by naming any of them – but this shoddy trade is a disgrace and brings UK legal (and other) education into disrepute and could, if the student gets caught, end their career in the profession before it has even begun.

So…how does it work. Well the websites I looked at tend to promise:

(a) a minimum of a 2.1 level piece of work (One website charged twice the rate to ensure a First)
(b) highly qualified writers (Often citing that their writers held a Masters degree or professional qualification)
(c) Delivery quickly
(d) a guarantee that it was ‘plagiarism’ free
(e) the commissioned work would never be posted on the net or used for someone else’s commission and
(f) absolute confidentiality

Naturally these reptiles of academe state that the work is for personal use by the student and may not be used for any other purpose – no doubt, to cover themselves against the charge that the students commission the work and then submit as their own original coursework. (But…no disclaimer from one company who my friend called)

Charon is nothing, if not thorough. A friend, a young woman, telephoned one of these websites. She made no misleading statements. She simply asked for information on having a piece of course work written, how much it would cost and how the system worked. She was told that she had to register, send in the details of the coursework. The coursework would then be written and returned to her. She did ask if she could hand that cousework in to a College and was told that she could. As simple as that.

I decided then to start making telephone calls. I called The Department of Education (I do enjoy telephoning our government) , who were most helpful and put me in touch with ‘Universities UK’. I have to call back after 10.00 tomorrow. I then phoned Amanda Fancourt, UK Centre for Legal Education, University of Warwick. Amanda Fancourt was very helpful, gave me a viewpoint that universities are doing their best to be vigilant and put me in touch with some of her colleagues at ALT who are doing research. I will write again about this subject – in a more scholarly way, hopefully, but merely flag it up now.

It irritates me that there are organisations who provide this service. It is shocking to know that students are prepared to cheat in this way – but perhaps most shocking of all is the fact that there are people – academics, practitioners, qualified lawyers? – who are drawn on by these companies to provide this cheat service. A very grubby trade.

Publishers publish textbooks and Q&As and a whole raft of study guides to help students. I have no problem at all with this – because lectures, textbooks and Q&A books are all in the public domain and can be scanned by plagiarism software – and the students have to do the work. Also – the content of these publications is not tailored to the specifics of a coursework essay.

If a student is caught – and it is proved that the work submitted is not their own – their academic and professional career is over. The problem is, however, that it may be difficult to prove. Surely , it would be better to take action directly against the suppliers of this type of service and insist that all coursework written for students is made public and therefore capable of being scanned by plagiarism software. I wonder how many students would be prepared, then, to pay £60 per 1000 words for a bit of help with their coursework? A lot cheaper to buy a textbook and do some work. Is this important enough for the universities and government to take action? I hope so. But will they?

4 thoughts on “Suit you, Sir?

  1. Wherever there is a demand someone will supply. The net simply facilitates this. I wonder who these people are who are writing the coursework. You’d have to be a very bored or desperate practitioner to do it, so I suppose its probably post grad students or pupil barristers who need the money. There needs to be a power to shut down the sites and stringent sanctions on the people producing.

    I must try phoning the government sometime. There lots of things I would like to ask them.

  2. the team at Consilio are doing quite a bit of research on this and are talking to a number of academics and others to find out the extent of the problem. This research, i suspect, will take a bit of time.

  3. I have heard that this ‘service’ provides a useful second income for more than a few underpaid law lecturers!

    Those who wish to avail themselves of this dubious service may well find that the individual who wrote their essay is the person who is marking it!

  4. To follow up on the first James’ statement, would the person marking the paper if indeed he or she wrote the piece originally have to declare it invalid thereby compromising their own integrity?

    Seems a very precarious occupation… if the records of the companies were every made public (of who bought and those that produced the papers) countless careers would be in jeopardy.

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