Firms that provide written-to-order essays for third-level students could face prosecution under new law. The law is being introduced in response to websites that allow students to bypass plagiarism-detection systems.
Announced by Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, the draft law will make it an offence to provide or advertise “cheating services” which give students an unfair advantage over others.
According to figures compiled by The Irish Times, there has been 1,000 cases of students in Ireland being disciplined for plagiarism since 2010. The real number is likely to be higher given some universities did not provide figures.
In a statement, Mr. Bruton said Ireland would be one of the first countries to take measures to tackle the issue of contract cheating.
“Today I am announcing plans to get tough and tackle academic cheating. I am proposing new powers to prosecute someone who provides or advertises essay mills or other services which would facilitate cheating. This is vital to ensuring an equal playing field for all our students.”
Although, there are essay-writing services available in Ireland, many insist they do not condone cheating.
Dublin-based website Write My Assignments, told The Irish Times that demand for its service was growing and it was completing 350 projects a year. The company does not condone plagiarism and all “clients are expected to use and reference it as they would any other online source”.
While current guidelines deal with plagiarism, they do not address the issue of so-called contract cheating or the use of paid-for essays.
Mr. Bruton said the measures will be included in a draft legislation that is to be issued to the Oireachtas education committee to allow for a full public discussion on the proposals. Mr. Bruton said he hoped committee would consider these proposals as soon as possible.
“The changes we are introducing are necessary to ensure high standards in higher and further education going into the future, and to provide better outcomes for all learners,” he said.
The provisions are modelled on legislation introduced in New Zealand which makes it illegal to advertise or provide third-party assistance to cheat.