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We need to talk about cheating

What is contract cheating, and how can it be avoided?

We all know that cheating is wrong. What may seem like an easy way out can have severe consequences for you and your classmates. Find out more about contract cheating and how to avoid it.

Cheating rates are on the rise across all universities. With the combined stresses of remote learning, assessment deadlines, and the COVID-19 pandemic, some students may be tempted to resort to various forms of cheating. But what may seem like a way to make life easier right now can have serious consequences both for the person that cheats and the people around them. 

Companies and individuals are preying on student vulnerabilities, and more and more students are getting caught up in situations that lead them to breach academic integrity requirements – sometimes without even realising it. While most reported cases relate to plagiarism, other more serious forms, such as contract cheating, are becoming more commonplace. It’s important to know that the consequences and the dangers of contract cheating are serious, not only for the students who engage in it, but for everyone else too.

What is contract cheating? 

Contract cheating is outsourcing of academic work to a third party. Contract cheating takes on many forms and often it’s easy to mistake certain actions for collaboration when in reality they are actually forms of contract cheating. Examples of what is considered contract cheating include:

  • asking a partner, friend or family member to write an assignment for you
  • paying an external tutoring company to coach you on how to complete an assignment
  • paying an external company to write an essay for you
  • posting or searching for answers on help sites
  • sharing answers to assignment questions, exams and quizzes with friends or on online help sites

Many sites that offer contract cheating don’t advertise themselves as doing so and will often take on the appearance of providing a legitimate, honest service. You may have seen these targeted ads when browsing the internet or as sponsored advertisements on social media platforms. It’s easy to ignore or report ads that bluntly offer cheating services, but what about those seemingly endless ‘tutoring’ ads? It can be very confusing and can lead to unintended consequences.

If you think you can benefit from some tutoring, or are unsure what an advertised ‘tutoring service’ is actually offering, it’s far better to reach out to academic support or University teachers for advice before you find yourself in a situation that could land you in trouble.

The Library's Peer Learning Advisors discuss this complex problem on the PeerPod Keeping it fair: academic integrity episode.

What happens if I cheat?

Did you know that 76% of reported academic integrity cases in 2021 resulted in adverse findings against students? 

The University has mechanisms for detecting breaches. If you are found to have cheated in an assessment, the consequences for academic misconduct range from failing an assignment or the unit of study, to exclusion from your course. If you are an international student, there is even greater risk: a cheating infringement can affect your study visa. For students in their final semester, it can mean delaying their graduation while an investigation is carried out. Most importantly, you're cheating yourself – you won’t learn the knowledge and skills you’re here to gain in the first place, and will need to succeed in your chosen career. 

Cheating on assessments negatively impacts your fellow students as it gives individuals that engage in it an unfair advantage, and can result in the entire cohort facing the consequences. No one wants to be that person. Additionally, the individuals offering contract treating services cannot be trusted. There have been cases of perpetrators blackmailing students that use their services under threat of revealing the student’s actions to the University.

Contract cheating undermines the trust employers and the general public have in universities, the value of degrees and graduates, the students. And if all that wasn’t enough contract cheating is now considered a criminal offence in Australia.

While the legislation targets the activities of commercial contract cheating companies in providing or advertising their paid services to students, it also creates a civil offence for individuals providing illegitimate assistance, whether for payment or not. This would cover situations, for example, where a friend or family member writes or contributes to a substantial part of a student’s work.

"With an increase in academic breaches across the University and across the sector, these legislative changes provide a valuable mechanism to block contract cheating companies from targeting students and empower educational institutions to educate students and keep them away from these nefarious organisations," said Professor McCallum, Registrar and Academic Director (Education).

International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating

19 October is the International Center for Academic Integrity’s International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating to raise awareness on this complex problem. 

You can enter their Student TikTok Contest to win up to $150 USD in Amazon Gift Cards. 

Getting help

Last updated: 19 October 2022

19 October 2021

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