Today, 40 Vice Chancellors and HE heads have written to the Secretary of State. Our own Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah weighed in heavily saying:
‘I expect universities to be educating students about these services and highlight the stiff, and possibly life changing, penalties they face.
I also want the sector to do more to grip the problem, for example by tackling advertising of these services in their institutions and finally blocking these services from sending an alarming number of emails to the inboxes of university students and staff.
I have been working with organisations across the higher education sector to bear down on this problem and this has already resulted in the likes of YouTube removing adverts for these essay mills, but legislative options are not off the table.’
News outlets are covering the story, but here is the letter in full.
I’d be happy to add my name to the list.
The Right Honourable Damian Hinds MP
Secretary of State for Education
27 September 2018
Essay Mills and Contract Cheating
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing to urge you to take action against the increasing problem of so-called essay mills, companies that facilitate contract cheating by producing assignments-to-order for students. Essay mills undermine the integrity of UK Higher Education and are unfair to the vast majority of honest, hard-working students. We are confident that you abhor such cheating as much as we do and encourage you to take the necessary steps to curb these practices, steps which must include a legislative ban on operating or advertising an essay mill.
In March 2017, Lord Young of Cookham, representing the Government, told Parliament that, ‘we remain open to legislation in the future should the steps we are taking prove insufficient.’ Despite concerted action by the QAA, universities and student unions, new research published last month indicates that contract cheating is becoming more common around the world. This form of cheating is particularly hard to detect and, whilst universities must continue to do their part, it is clear to us the time has come for the Government to give legislative backing to the efforts to shut down these
Legislation will not be a magic bullet; it is, however, a vital part of the broader package of measures. Legislation would, amongst other advantages, shut-down UK-based essay mills; prevent the advertising of their services near campuses and in public places such as the London Underground; enable the removal of essay mills from search engine findings and prevent UK-based companies from hosting online advertisements for essay mills. Most importantly, it will send a clear statement to the global Higher Education sector that the integrity of a UK degree is valued by the government. Any
legislation would need to be carefully crafted, in particular to ensure that the law targeted the essay mills themselves, and did not criminalise students or legitimate educational services. There are, however, existing models, including the Bill recently introduced by the Irish government and the draft bill published by Newton and Draper in 2017, either of which provide a starting point for developing legislation for the UK.
We therefore call upon you to:
• Commit to introducing legislation to ban the provision and advertising of essay mills before the end of this Parliament.
• Commission the QAA to develop and publish a draft Bill by or before the beginning of the next Parliamentary Session, building on their existing work with academic and legal experts.
• Give your Department’s full support to efforts by the QAA and OfS to tackle this issue,
including supporting the QAA’s proposed initiative to establish a UK Centre for Academic
Integrity, with a formal remit to research, analyse and combat academic misconduct.
Essay mills have no place in UK Higher Education. With New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and 17 US states all having introduced or introducing a ban, it is time for the UK to also take the necessary action to demonstrate that the UK is not a safe haven for Essay Mills to do business, and so to safeguard the reputation of the UK Higher Education sector.
Professor Michael Arthur – President and Provost, University College London
Professor Dame Janet Beer – Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool
Professor Amanda Blackmore – President and Chief Executive, GSM London
Professor Paul Boyle CBE – Vice-Chancellor, University of Leicester
Dr Tim Bradshaw – Chief Executive, Russell Group
Professor Hugh Brady – Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Bristol
Cath Brown – President, Open University Students Association
Professor Julia Buckingham CBE – Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University London
Professor Edward Byrne AC – President and Principal, King’s College London
Professor Anne Carlisle – Vice-Chancellor, Falmouth University
Professor Joy Carter CBE – Vice-Chancellor, University of Winchester and Chair of GuildHE
Professor Stuart Corbridge – Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Durham University
Professor Stuart Croft – Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick
Mary Curnock Cook OBE – Former Chief Executive, UCAS
Professor Scott Davidson – Vice-Chancellor, Newman University
Professor Chris Day – Vice-Chancellor and President, Newcastle University
Professor Linda Drew – Vice-Chancellor, Ravensbourne University London
Professor Sir David Eastwood – Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham
Sir Mark Featherstone-Witty OBE – Founding Principal/CEO, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
Professor Ian Greer – President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Gavin Henderson CBE – Principal, The Royal Centre School of Speech and Drama
Professor Margaret House OBE – Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University
Professor Sir Chris Husbands – Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University
Alistair Jarvis – Chief Executive, Universities UK
Alison Johns – Chief Executive, AdvanceHE
Professor Mary Kellett – Acting Vice-Chancellor, The Open University
Professor Koen Lamberts – Vice-Chancellor, University of York
Professor John Last OBE – Vice-Chancellor, Norwich University of the Arts
Dr David Llewellyn – Vice-Chancellor, Harper Adams University
Professor Jane Longmore – Vice-Chancellor, University of Chichester
Professor Sally Mapstone – Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Andrews
Russell Marchant – Vice-Chancellor, Hartpury University
Gordon McKenzie – Chief Executive, GuildHE
Clarie Middleton – Principal and Chief Executive, Rose Bruford College
Professor Kathryn Mitchell – Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Derby
Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli – Vice-Chancellor, University of Glasgow and Chair of the Russell Group
Professor Malcolm Press – Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University
Professor Colin Riordan – Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University
Sir Anthony Seldon – Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham
Bilal Sheikh – Principal, Mont Rose College
Professor Sir Steve Smith – Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter
Professor Karen Stanton – Vice-Chancellor, York St John University
Professor Rob Warner – Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Plymouth Marjon University
Dr Greg Walker – CEO, MillionPlus
Professor Andrew Wathey CBE – Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Northumbria University
Professor Shearer West Vice-Chancellor, University of Nottingham
Jayne Rowley – Chief Executive, HECSU Prospects