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Australia cracks down on contract cheating through legislation

The Australian government will be enacting a new law against contract cheating, a recent phenomenon which has been on the rise in the UK.

The anti-cheating law which will impose “significant penalties” on commercial cheating services for university students is to be presented to the Australian parliament in 2019.

Inspired by New Zealand’s approach, the reform will target services of all origins and rely on “federal powers” over communications, trade, etcetera.

Regulatory gaps such as cheating “promoted by word of mouth and does not cross state borders or involve international students” will have to be addressed.

The Australian government will also enact follow-up measures, in accordance with advice from the Higher Education Standards Panel, which will provide guidance on how to deter commercial cheating.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will implement the new law, having described contract cheating as “possibly the biggest current reputational risk to Australian higher education”.

TEQSA acknowledged that legislating against contract cheating was constitutionally “problematic”, especially for cheating by domestic students or without the involvement of corporate entities.

TEQSA will also be responsible for drafting a standardised statement for academic integrity, which all students are required to sign. It will “make clear the expectation to not misrepresent the work of others as their own, and the range of penalties that could apply if such dishonesty is identified”, as outlined by the Australian government.

They furthered: “The intent is that such a clear statement at the start of a person’s study journey will help set the benchmark for future actions. Providers would be encouraged, on a voluntary basis, to adopt the statement for all students as part of induction processes.”

Cases of contract cheating in the form of rising essay mills have been proliferating in the UK, with one in seven essays being written by someone else.

Universities have resorted to using “FBI-style” software to crackdown on cheating, and vice-chancellors have joined together to end essay mills.

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