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We need to talk about cheating

19 October 2021
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 both you and your classmates. Find out more about contract cheating and how to avoid it.

We all know that cheating is wrong. But with the combined stresses of remote learning, assessment deadlines and the COVID-19 pandemic, some students may be tempted to resort to various of forms of cheating. But what may seem to be a way to make life easier right now can have serious consequences both for the person that cheats and the people around them.

With the transition to remote learning, cheating is on the rise across all universities and more and more students are getting caught up in situations that lead them to breaches in academic integrity requirements – sometimes without even realising it. While most cases are related 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 in 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 a sponsored advertisement 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 for academic support or University teachers for advice before you find yourself in a situation that could land you in trouble.

What happens if I contract cheat?  

The consequences of contract cheating aren’t simply limited to academic misconduct under the University’s policies. This could range from failing a 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. 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

October 20 is the International Center for Academic Integrity’s International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating. Join our student reps in the fight against contract cheating.

  • Student representatives will be taking over the University’s Instagram. Check out @sydney_uni for more and share your questions.
  • Peer support advisors are running a Zoom Hangout on integrity at 4.30pm on 20 October AEDT. The PSA are fluent in English and Mandarin and will cover key points on academic integrity and support services that will help you succeed in your studies.
  • The Library’s Peer Learning Advisors discuss this topic on the PeerPod Keeping it fair: academic integrity episode.

Getting help

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