All posts by Simon

I work in the Learning and Teaching Development Service at Newcastle University.

Essay Mills and Contract Cheating

Wednesday 18th October 2017 marks the second International Day of Action against Contract Cheating, promoted by the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI).

Contract cheating occurs when one person completes academic work, such as an essay, assignment, test or exam, for another who then submits it for academic credit. This behaviour undermines academic standards and devalues the qualifications of those who do not cheat.

In 2016, in response to serious concerns among higher education providers and from government, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) published a report on the growing threat of third parties helping students to cheat, known as custom essay writing services, or ‘essay mills’. Following this, QAA has now this month published guidance for students and universities on tackling this problem and promoting academic integrity in higher education. It sets out the steps that universities can take to deal with forms of contract cheating, and recommends:

  • clear information for students on the risks of cheating, including academic misconduct being reported to relevant professional bodies
  • support for students to develop independent study skills, including academic writing
  • using a range of assessment methods to limit opportunities for cheating
  • blocking essay mill sites and taking action against essay mill advertising on campus
  • smarter detection, including new software and greater familiarity with students’ personal styles and capabilities
  • appropriate support for whistle blowing – to protect accuser as well as accused
  • student involvement on academic misconduct policies and panels.

Newcastle University is committed to defending academic integrity and freedom, and will be considering how best to take account of this guidance within its own policies and procedures.

The International Center for Academic Integrity has published an institutional toolkit against contract cheating that can be downloaded here.

Information for Senior and Personal Tutors

The University’s Framework for Personal Tutoring has been updated following the approval of revised meeting arrangements by University Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Committee in July. With effect from the start of the 2017-18 academic year, tutors should record the first meeting that is offered and those that have taken place for undergraduate students. For taught postgraduate students, tutors should record the offer of meetings in ePortfolio. If tutorial meetings do not take place, reasons why not should also be recorded.

We have clarified what should happen if meetings do not take place. If a tutor offers a meeting within ePortfolio using meeting slots, but a student chooses not to pick a time to meet with the tutor, this should be regarded as sufficient reason why the meeting has not taken place. Only if a meeting slot is not created by the tutor within ePortfolio should a reason be recorded elsewhere why a meeting has not taken place.

We have distributed to Senior Tutors a new version of the briefing slides for Senior Tutors to discuss with Personal Tutors in their School or subject area. The slides provide information which will hopefully be helpful for ensuring that Senior and Personal Tutors are familiar with University expectations. They also provide advice on how to find and signpost further support.

Additional resources for tutors have also been brought up to date and can be found on our website.

The Senior Tutors Discussion Forum will continue to meet on a quarterly basis beginning in October.  A Role of the Senior Tutor Training Workshop will also be held twice this coming academic year.

If you have any questions or can suggest examples of effective practice in personal tutoring, please contact LTDS.