Paying someone to finish that university assignment that’s been hanging over your head might sound like a great idea, but getting caught could result in jail time and a huge fine.
This type of “contract cheating” is becoming commonplace in many Australian universities, with a range of easily accessed services offering to complete assignments or sit an exam for money.
Under new legislation being drafted by the Federal Government, people caught providing cheating services to students could face two years in jail and a $210,000 fine.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said organised academic cheating threatened the integrity of Australia’s higher education system.
“Cheating is wrong and the Morrison Government is targeting the people who are making money exploiting Australia’s students,” Mr Tehan said.
“If you write another person’s university essay that’s cheating and you’re ripping off other hardworking students and also undermining our world-class education system.
“We will make contract cheating a crime sending a very clear message that cheats do not prosper under the Morrison Government.”
Some services offer as little as $30 for an assignment to be completed and there are numerous websites advertising these types of deals.
Some places even allow students to select what type of grade they would like, with the price tailored depending on how high the mark they want to achieve is.
Once the legislation is introduced it will give the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) powers to take action against academic cheating services, including investigation and prosecution of identified offenders.
TEQSA will also be given authority to seek Federal Court injunctions to prevent access to domestic and international websites promoting cheating services.
Students with special needs who may need a scribe or some other service would be exempt under the new laws.
Students who are caught accessing these contract cheating services wouldn’t be punished with jail time or a fine under the new legislation, it would only be those providing the services that would be hit with that penalty.
Though payment is common place in these types of deals, there doesn’t have to be money exchanged for it to be considered contract cheating.
This has given rise to concerns that parents or friends who help by reading over a student’s assignment and suggesting small changes may be caught out under the new laws.
The phrase in the bill that describes “providing any part of a piece of work or assignment” as illegal is the section causing particular concern.
“We’re concerned that might mean that if you were a mum or a dad at home proofreading your kid’s essay, you say ‘those three sentences don’t work very well, how about you use this different sentence or this different construction or these different words?’, that kind of assistance might be captured,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson told the ABC.
She suggested that the language needs to be changed in the final version of the bill to ensure parents and friends aren’t being caught in these types of situations.
Commentator Angela Mollard agreed that, while it could be an issue, parents shouldn’t be helping university students with their assignments anyway.
“What are mum and dads doing helping university kids? Yes while they were at school, a bit of proof reading a bit of helping,” she told the The Morning Show.
“But once you are at university you are an adult, you do the work yourself.”
Originally published as Uni cheats face jail under brutal law