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Epigram recently published a feature highlighting the growing problems with “contract cheating” – students paying to have their essays written for them. This could range from a first-year trial essay to a full dissertation: even a PhD. This problem appears to be getting worse and worse with more students turning to contract cheating. Epigram emphasised that many of these students come from Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities. Does this mean there is a lack of academic support for students in these prestigious institutions, including Bristol?

Related article: Essays for sale: the students paying to cheat

First year student Olly Rodgers argues that most people who do “contract cheating” are just lazy. Help is there, but whether people choose to take it is a different story. However, while there is a certainly a minority of students who are just lazy, it would seem most people who engage in contract cheating are doing it because they are desperate. This in itself highlights fundamental problems with British universities. Students should not feel under so much pressure that they feel forced to turn to contract cheating to keep their grades up. Every student is familiar with the stress and pressure caused by getting into university alone, and this pressure continues even after arriving. The job market is more competitive than ever and so it is plausible that many students feel that contract cheating is the only way to get the grades they need. Fear of underperforming could send students in the direction of websites such as ‘Oxbridge Essay.’

                              Some students resort to websites like ‘Oxbridge Essays’, under pressure from a variety of sources

Students also may feel they are unable to get enough help and support and therefore do not feel equipped to complete their assignments. Particularly in subjects such as History and English where the contact hours are minimal, it is quite understandable that students do not feel they are getting enough help. Speaking with first year student Lily Hammond, she suggested that there perhaps is not enough support there. Minimal contact time with a tutor can leave students feeling helpless. With important deadlines looming it is easy to see how some students may start to see the appeal of contract cheating.

The article Epigram published suggested that the way to stop contract cheating might be to make it illegal. While this would certainly be beneficial, it would also seem that universities across the country need to stop and revaluate the academic and pastoral support that they give students. More support and guidance is vital, especially in subjects where the contact hours are already so limited. Greater access to tutors and resources could stop students getting to the point where they feel they have no other choice. The world is a competitive place, however less pressure on students to perform highly could also arguably push people away from contract cheating.

‘Our greatest focus should indeed be on improving support for students who may feel they do not have any’

There certainly needs to be something done about the ever-growing problem of contract cheating. While criminalising these websites is a good place to start, British universities should be doing more to help and support students so that they don’t feel contract cheating is their only solution. Our greatest focus should indeed be on improving support for students who may feel they do not have any.

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Do you agree with Ellie, that universities are partly to blame for the continuation of “contract cheating”? Or does blame lie elsewhere? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.

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