‘Essay Mills’ reaches out to students to offer paid cheat service

Students are contacted on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram by “promoters” encouraging them to use paid trials so they can succeed in their college work.

A memo from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) said there were suspicions that details of assignments were either provided by other students in return for discounts or when students had been hired as ‘promoters’ on the campus.

The background note said certain types of students were particularly at risk of using “test mills” to cheat on assignments, including postgraduates and international students.

The briefing note explained: “Certain cohorts of learners appear to be more vulnerable to the use of assignment writing services. In particular: international students where the pressure to succeed is very high and where high levels of shame are associated with failure.

“[Also] postgraduate students where again there is a high level of investment in success and where learners may have additional financial and other pressures to manage; and students in business and computer science (and related subjects) programs”.

The memo went on to explain how there had been a massive growth in essay factories that offered “bespoke assignment writing services” to individual studies.

QQI said international research has shown that as many as one in seven students may have used a contract fraud service.

Anecdotal evidence suggests this has increased during the pandemic.

The memo – which was sent to the Higher Education Authority last year – said that since March 2021 “academic integrity alerts” were sent to colleges every six weeks.

In a statement, QQI said digital platforms were increasingly being used by newsrooms to target students.

A spokeswoman said they had systems in place with TikTok, Google, Facebook and Instagram where they could flag profiles, posts and search results that offered services that compromised academic integrity.

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