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With grades determined by teachers this summer, it’s inevitable that parents are more focused than ever to ensure their children submit faultless coursework. But are parents feeling under pressure to guarantee their children receive good grades, and therefore falling victim to cheat? Journalist Emma Irving recently reported on the measures some parents felt they must take to ensure their children do well in their coursework – tactics that included the hiring of private tutors to provide kids with ‘hands-on help’. Parents across Britain spend £2 billion on private tuition each year, and unsurprisingly demand has exploded even further since the cancellation of the summer exams this academic year. 

Increasing concern for original authorship 

What starts out as an innocent endeavour to ensure that a home-schooled child doesn’t fall behind can quickly slip into tutors rewriting coursework and ultimately children submitting work that is not their own.

Contract cheating and original authorship has always been a big issue in the industry, but it is increasingly becoming a cause for concern for educators across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to a boom in private tuition requests for school-age students, there has also been an alarming rise of cheating taking place at universities since assessments have moved online. Researchers have detected three times as many requests to a major “homework help” website and a sharp increase in the number of custom writing service websites known as “essay mills” - with the QAA reporting at least 932 sites currently operating in the UK, a rise from 635 only three years ago.

Custom writing services are undoubtedly a major threat to academic integrity worldwide. They diminish the significance of grades, degrees and qualifications and have the potential to seriously jeopardise institutional reputations.

Providing a solution

Most students want to learn and would not consider cheating. But the remote working environment is challenging and, with tutors and parents also feeling the pressure, it’s vital that we work together to ensure that we can best safeguard academic integrity for all.

We have worked closely with the former UK universities minister Chris Skidmore MP in proposing new legislation to the House of Commons that prohibits such commercial writing services from operating and advertising in the UK. The Essay Mills (Prohibition) Bill, has already received its first parliamentary reading and garnered cross-party debate, with a second reading expected in the coming weeks.

As well as pushing through the new Essay Mills (Prohibition) Bill, we also need to collaborate with students to reinforce the importance of original thinking. By ensuring student buy-in from the outset, we can raise awareness of the issue and help prevent a systematic crisis from developing.  

It’s unsurprising that contract cheating is an issue that we at Turnitin are passionate about and the solutions we offer are designed to keep integrity at the core of all student work. Our tools can provide insights based on a student’s body of work and clearly demonstrate a student’s academic progress over time, which can help educators identify and compile information to manage contract cheating cases.

Turnitin Originality uses comprehensive technology to help deter unoriginal work and support students in learning how to properly attribute ideas and concepts to others. When reviewing submissions, Turnitin Originality examines whether the work is similar to other known text, or if it has indications that it was not authored by the student. The aim is to support students back to honest behaviours before cheating habits become embedded.

Learn more about Turnitin Originality