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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Student cheats contract out work
student working at desk
Research suggests universities need better detection
Students are outsourcing coursework in a phenomenon dubbed "contract cheating", academics have found.

Researchers at Birmingham's University of Central England found coursework being put out to tender on the internet and suppliers bidding to finish it.

The students used legitimate websites normally used by businesses offering freelance project work.

The researchers found one in 10 of all bid requests submitted to one website were from students.

It appears to be a twist on the well-established practice of buying essays via websites which are advertising for such business.

Lecturer Thomas Lancaster carried out the research with his colleague Robert Clarke.

'Middle men'

In a two-month period they identified 236 unique individuals outsourcing coursework - 102 of whom were from the UK, from 46 separate institutions.

They also found individuals who were advertising dozens of assignments from more than one institution.

Dr Lancaster said this suggested agencies were acting as "middle men" and offering to do coursework before outsourcing it themselves.

Dr Lancaster first became alerted to the practice when he found a piece of work he had assigned was being put out to tender on one of the websites.

He said: "What we've identified is a new type of cheating where students put their coursework out to tender and suppliers bid to complete it.

"This type of cheating is cost effective for students, because many of the suppliers are internationally based and can complete the set assignments for a few dollars a time."

'Serious concern'

Dr Lancaster said the majority of cheats identified through the website had previously requested between two and seven pieces of work.

He said: "We believe this shows that this form of cheating is becoming habitual.

"As an academic community, we need to take stock of this situation.

"More automated detection techniques are needed to monitor these sites and assessments and academic policies need to be reconsidered to remove the potential for contract cheating to be committed.

"There is a serious concern that, unlike plagiarism, academic institutions are not yet fully aware of the potential prevalence of contract cheating and the measures that can be taken to avoid it."

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30 Jun 04 |  Education

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