Two years ago, the regulator of Australia’s higher education institutions – the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) – held workshops around the nation in a bid to stamp-out so-called “contract cheating”, which had proliferated across Australia’s universities:
The aim of the workshops is to provide strategies for institutions to promote academic integrity, address integrity breaches, mitigate risk and build a culture of academic integrity…
“This is not going to be something that suddenly magically fixes every issue we have with academic integrity breaches or contract cheating, but I think there is real momentum,” [University of South Australia associate professor of higher education Tracey Bretag] said.
“What we’re seeing and hearing anecdotally is that instead of outsourcing a paper to somebody else they will, for example, find an article written on a subject in a language that they understand and they’ll put it through a translation tool into English, then they’ll put that through a paraphrasing tool,” she said.
Last year, TEQSA also established a higher education integrity unit to work with higher education providers and government agencies to take action on cheating.
Now TESQSA is seeking to block internet access to alleged academic cheating services:
[TESQSA has taken] action in the Federal Court to block access to Indian-based website assignmenthelp4you.com…
The Indian website advertises itself as a “professional assignment service” for Australia, the UK, the US and Gulf countries, offering the “best academic writers for hire”, guaranteeing “no plagiarism”.
“We are known as reliable last minute assignment writing service,” the website says.
It claims it covers “popular subjects” including accounting, finance, management, economics, statistics, human resource management, business law and taxation, programming, computer science and engineering.
Obviously, students wanting to cheat could easily sidestep the website block by utilising a virtual private network (VPN). So these changes are unlikely to have much of an impact.
Let’s be honest here: the rise in contract cheating across Australia’s universities relates directly to the boom in international students from non-English speaking nations.
As these numbers boomed, reports of “contract cheating” proliferated.
In 2015, ABC’s Four Corners’ “Degrees of deception” report documented widespread cheating by international students, with one university lecturer claiming half of their students had engaged in plagiarism.
Around the same time, dozens of international students across New South Wales were caught in an elaborate cheating racket, prompting a strong rebuke from the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
At the beginning of 2019, international student associations demanded regulation of overseas agents amid systemic cheating on English language tests.
Whereas Four Corners’ “Cash Cows” report on Australia’s international student trade highlighted systemic plagiarism and misconduct by international students.
Finally in July 2019, The AFR reported that “cheating has spread like wildfire” across Australia’s universities, driven by international students, whereas The ABC reported a “proliferation of ghostwriting” services targeted at international students.
The underlying problem is that Australia’s higher education system was turned into a commodity, with universities selling places to international students to maximise profits.
Basically, Australia’s universities gutted entry standards in order to boost enrolments, which meant that almost any international student qualified to study so long as they can pay the fees. And because these international students paid so much money upfront, and lacked the necessary English language skills to succeed, they inevitably turned to contract cheating services to ensure they passed.
The real victims here are Australian students who had the quality of their education badly eroded as universities dumbed down courses to cater to those with poor English skills.
The underlying solution is to treat the problem at its source by targeting a smaller intake of higher quality students via:
- Raising entry standards (particularly English-language proficiency);
- Raising financial requirements needed to enter Australia; and
- Removing the link between studying, work rights and permanent residency.
Basically, international education needs to become a genuine export industry rather than a people importing immigration industry.
We must restore Australia’s universities back to being about ‘higher learning’ rather than ‘higher earning’.