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University students who submit essays they have purchased from others could be criminalised, according to new proposals considered by the Department of Education.

Students caught plagiarising could face a range of punishments, from fines and academic blacklists, to a criminal records for serious cases of cheating.

The suggestion to increase punishments for plagiarism follows a report published by the Universities Watchdog the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), revealing that so-called ‘essay mills’ are charging up to £6,750 for dissertation writing.

Last month, The Telegraph revealed that more than 20,000 students at British universities have been paying for ‘bespoke’ essays in order to finish their degrees.

The Department of Education is currently considering a number of proposals alongside higher education bodies to clamp down on plagiarism.This includes the issuing of criminal records to those who purchase professionally written essays.

Universities Minster, Jo Johnson, denounced students paying for essays as ‘unacceptable’, pledging ‘tough action’ against plagiarism.

The University of Bristol have formally responded to the Department of Education’s proposals.

‘We take academic misconduct very seriously and have various mechanisms to identify and respond to any form of student plagiarism or cheating.

‘Any student who submitted a prewritten essay bought online would be committing plagiarism under the University Examination Regulations, and would be disciplined in accordance with our procedures.’

Simon Shaw-Miller, Subject Head for History of Art at the University of Bristol, told Epigram:

‘Plagiarism is a serious issue as it relates to the mechanisms of scholarship: the building of interpretation on the foundation of other scholars’ work.

‘Correct and appropriate citation is therefore fundamental to the ethics of good practice.

‘However, the criminalisation of plagiarism is another matter.

‘Learning requires and expects mistakes…it is therefore essential that such issues are handled sensitively’.

The new guidance from the government is expected to be implemented from September, with the start of the next academic year.

Do you think plagiarism should be a criminal offence? Let us know…

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