Winland Academy, an education firm, has been advertising to pay people to write university applications for students, including their personal statements.
The firm, which specialises in helping Chinese students study in the UK, advertised for a “university application writer” on LinkedIn.
The Sutton Trust social mobility charity said that the posting raised “particularly alarming” issues about fairness.
The Winland Academy’s job advert on LinkedIn described the job as: “Writing a personal statement and other original application documents for students’ university application, including foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate.”
It asked for writers who could adjust their “prose style to match the voice of different students”.
It added: “You will be an important part of the student’s academic application. You have to show your professionalism in writing unique content for different background students.”
There are rules by the UCAS admissions service that the personal statement, framed as “your chance to describe your ambitions, skills and experience to university and college admissions staff”, must be written by the students themselves.
A spokesperson for the firm said that it didn’t write personal statements for its clients: “We offer a personalised proofreading service to help students, whose native language is not English”.
They said that the advert was no longer available because “we found the job title might look confusing”.
In response to the advert, Sander Kristel, chief operating officer of UCAS, said: “It is vital that all applicants create their own personal statements.”
“The personal statement of an applicant’s own values and aspirations helps them gain selection onto a course or institution that is a good fit for them. UCAS does not endorse anyone else creating these statements.”
Carl Cullinane, director of research and policy at the Sutton Trust education charity, says the university admissions process is already a “barrier for students from poorer homes who have less access to the guidance and advice needed to navigate the system”.
He says the personal statement is a “key example” of how students could get different levels of support, depending on their schools and social backgrounds
“Those who can get additional support and expert advice are better placed to know what admissions tutors are looking for. Paid-for services are particularly alarming and raise serious issues around fairness.”