Contract cheating services that sell assignment writing and exam answers are the target of a $3.9 million federal government funding program to put them out of business.
The funding is going to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) so that its Higher Education Integrity Unit is able to enforce laws related to education integrity, with the agency also working with social media companies such as Meta, LinkedIn and Gumtree to get advertisements promoting academic cheating services removed.
At least 300 websites have been identified by the TEQSA as it suspects of selling answers and assignment completion to enrolled students looking for an easy ride through the studies at Australian universities.
The agency was successful in getting two academic cheating websites blocked following action in the federal court last year.
There are 130 similar sites still under investigation. The TEQSA will take action to get these sites blocked once investigations have been completed.
Stuart Robert, the acting minister for education and youth, said measures to cut the custom for academic cheating websites were already reaping results.
The minister said computer searches for the services selling assignment and assessment completion to enrolled students wanting to cheat had already reduced.
‘With TEQSA data showing that searches for cheating services in Australia dropped by 23.5% during the last half of 2021, it is clear the Morrison government’s laws are disrupting the cheats,” Robert said.
‘The laws penalise those who provide or promote cheating services with up to two years in prison and/or fines of up to $110,000, where the cheating service or advertising is for a commercial purpose. The laws also give us the power to block access to cheating websites.”
Robert said the TEQSA is also focused on looking at technologies such as artificial intelligence and file-sharing that are being used by cheating service providers to work around site removals and bans.
“While the government’s tough stance on industrial-scale academic cheating is bringing results, higher education providers and students must remain vigilant in the face of this evolving risk,” Robert said.
“I encourage providers to continue working with TEQSA to strengthen students’ understanding of why cheating is never the right answer.”