Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 12:41 UK

Essays earn graduates thousands

Lecture hall
Essay-writing services can charge up to 500 for coursework

A former Oxford university student has said graduates can earn up to 30,000 a year by writing essays and selling them to school and university students.

The writer, who is in his 20s and wanted to remain anonymous, said he was commissioned by a firm that sells essays by Oxford graduates on the web.

Students are charged between 70 for GCSE essays and 20,000 for PHD work.

The government warned that those who submitted coursework written by somebody else faced strong sanctions.

The graduate said he gets paid about 500 for an undergraduate essay.

He said: "I'll do a 2,000-word essay in about two or three hours.

'Fair enough'

"I don't have a problem with it - it's not selling drugs, just using your brain. I went to private school so I see it as recuperating some of those costs.

"I've spent a lot of money on my education. It's only fair enough if I can make a little bit directly off it."

In a statement the Department for Children, Schools and Families said no GCSE or A level pupils should pass off other people's work as their own.

It said teachers and markers were trained to spot tell-tale signs of cheating.

Oxford University said that students at the university were forbidden from buying, and then submitting as their own, essays written by other people.

Not illegal

A spokesman for Universities UK, which represents university leaders, said the essay- selling companies made sure they operated within the law.

"They carefully word the small print to say that buyers should not present [the works] as their own, but use it as a guide. But how many are likely to do that?

"There is nothing illegal in selling or buying essays, but the universities impose severe penalties for those caught cheating."

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