The heads of 40 top universities have called for a ban on so-called ‘essay mills’, after an explosion in cheating which has seen up to one in seven students using them.
The vice-chancellors called for companies who offer essay-writing services to be made illegal.
Under the present system, students who use the services face punishment – but it’s totally legal for companies to offer the service.
The BBC reports that the vice chancellors are calling for those who provide the services, rather than students who use them, to be targeted by new laws.
Universities Minister Sam Gyimah has said outlawing the services completely remains an option, although work is ongoing to tackle the problem by other means.
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He said: “I expect universities to be educating students about these services and highlight the stiff, and possibly life changing, penalties they face.
“I also want the sector to do more to grip the problem, for example by tackling advertising of these services in their institutions and finally blocking these services from sending an alarming number of emails to the inboxes of university students and staff.
“I have been working with organisations across the higher education sector to bear down on this problem and this has already resulted in the likes of YouTube removing adverts for these essay mills, but legislative options are not off the table.”
Essay mills are illegal in some countries and a parliamentary petition is already under way calling for them to be banned.
The work can be difficult to identify as the essays are tailored for individual subjects and appear original.