ACT News

Australian National University investigate essay farm targeting Chinese students

The Australian National University has launched an investigation into an essay farm selling completed assignments to Chinese students in Canberra.

Concerns about the cheating service were raised by former students who believed someone within the university community was exploiting international students for profit.

The Australian National University will investigate an online assignment cheating service.
The Australian National University will investigate an online assignment cheating service.  Photo: Louise Kennerley

ANU deputy vice-chancellor, professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, said any student caught using the service would face disciplinary action and possible expulsion.

The company, Assignment King, advertises its services in Mandarin on a community website and promises to deliver original assignments that cannot be detected by anti-plagiarism software.

The service claims to have 250 writers who have graduated from top Australian universities, including The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney and The University of Queensland.

Last year, 51 ANU students faced disciplinary action after being caught cheating, plagiarising or using a service similar to Assignment King.

Advertisement

"Students thinking of using these websites should think twice," professor Hughes-Warrington said.

"Those who get caught cheating risk disciplinary action, the most serious of which is expulsion from the university. It just isn't worth the risk."

The professor said only a tiny minority of 20,000 enrolled students at the ANU were caught cheating or deliberately plagiarising.

"We are proud of the quality of our students who work hard to get into ANU and to graduate," she said.

"The university makes a point of educating all our students about our expectations of academic integrity."

Last year, a Fairfax Media investigation revealed thousands of university students were paying up to $1000 for assignments completed by the Sydney-based company MyMaster, which has since closed.

MyMaster produced thousands of university assignments and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars after launching in May 2012.

Professor Hughes-Warrington said online essay farms had become a global issue for universities.

"Claims by such websites that they won't be detected are simply not true," she said.

"ANU academic staff use a range of techniques — including technology — to monitor and flag potential issues of academic integrity.

"The ANU does not tolerate plagiarism or cheating by any of our students — domestic or international. Students submitting any work are required to formally confirm with their signature that the work is entirely their own."

In 2014, the University of Canberra investigated 420 reports of plagiarism with 391 cases confirmed.

Those caught cheating failed the subject and were expelled on second offence.

The university responded to 173 cases of academic misconduct a year earlier, with the majority of cases involving plagiarism.

"The University of Canberra is aware of essay writing services but our students have not been identified as customers of this service," a spokesman said.

"Despite the claims of the assignment writing website, it is very likely that parts of a purchased assignment will be taken from the web, or from previous work, or from similar requests, so it will be detected."

The University of Canberra uses the Urkund anti-plagiarism program to search for similarities in published work online and assignments submitted by other students.

"The university advises students that there is nothing to be gained from academic misconduct," said the spokesperson.

"They are very likely to get caught and they will create gaps in their knowledge that place them at a disadvantage in the workforce."

ANU uses the more popular Turnitin program, which also used by the University of Melbourne and other group of eight universities.

The Canberra contact for Assignment King declined to comment on this story.