The government is planning to introduce new laws that will prosecute firms who offer to write assignments for students in exchange for money.
The Department of Education is hoping to combat the production of these essays as they fit around the plagiarism criteria in many universities and ITs. Online systems, such as TurnItIn, are used to detect whether a student is copying academic work or another student’s previous work rather than detecting a new essay produced for the student.
VP for Academic Affairs, James Donoghue advises students not to “get caught in the trap, there are lots of supports there. Don’t take that option and talk to somebody about sustainable options.”
In a statement given to the Irish Times, a spokesman for the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, said Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is going to develop new guidelines for this type of plagiarism. He also stated that a new bill would give the QQI “specific powers to prosecute ‘essay mills’ and other forms of cheating”.
He also stressed that the new guidelines would not be developed without advice from students, providers and other relevant parties and would also be informed by recent research carried out in the UK regarding ‘essay mills.’
Since 2010, there have been 1,000 reported cases of plagiarism in colleges, although the real number is likely to be much higher, with UCD, UCC and Maynooth University not providing figures. However, this type of plagiarism is much harder to scale.
Staff and academics in DCU had previously warned students not to avail of services such as these when posters advertising assignments for money were posted across the campuses last November.
Students were encouraged to reach out to the writing centre, the Student’s Union and academic support staff that are available within the college if they needed extra help.
Donoghue also emphasised the importance of doing the work yourself as “you learn skills by doing work and if it’s not your work, then you’re not learning the skills.”
When asked if the use of essay mills may be a concern for next year’s VP for Academic Affairs, Donoghue responded that “Yes, I think it’s a concern for anybody working in the third level academic sphere.”
Image Credit: Darragh Culhane