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What you need to know about ‘contract cheating’

8 October 2018
You may be engaging in academic misconduct and not even know it
Plagiarism is on the decline, but new forms of cheating are on the rise. ‘Contract cheating’ is a rapidly growing problem that every student should be concerned about. So, what is it, and why is it so bad?

Everyone knows cheating is wrong. Not everyone knows that it could lead to identity theft or ransom. Contract cheating is a relatively new phenomenon where illegitimate services prey on university students. Students who fall into the temptation to take the ‘easy route’ often find themselves targeted by scams, blackmail and extortion.

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating is a serious form of academic dishonesty. It’s when someone else contributes to or completes your assignments and other academic work on your behalf, without acknowledgement or the permission of your teachers. They might be:

  • an individual, such as a private tutor, family member or friend
  • a service, such as a tutoring company, document sharing or an assignment writing service, also known as ’ghostwriting’.

It’s called ‘contract cheating’ because it involves some kind of exchange, or contract, between two or more people. Sometimes this involves payment, but it can be considered contract cheating even if money isn’t involved.

Examples of contract cheating

There are many different forms of the practice and many reasons for doing it. Below are some hypothetical situations as examples.

  • Jack has been working a lot of shifts and hasn’t had time to write his essay. He emails a website that offers assignment writing services. He pays for a custom essay on his topic and submits it as if it’s his own work.
  • Emma is struggling with her science report. She messages her lab partner, Julie, asking for help. Julie emails Emma her completed assignment, which Emma uses to write her own report.
  • Sarah has been having trouble keeping up in her accounting subject. Her friend Tom tells her about a tutoring company that provides assignment coaching and model answers for the subject she is taking. After paying the company to attend their courses, Sarah partially rewrites the model answers and submits them as her own work.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you could be guilty of contract cheating. For more examples, visit the University’s Academic Dishonesty page.

What are the consequences of contract cheating?

If you get caught participating in contract cheating you’ll face serious academic consequences – you may fail one or more units of study, or be suspended from your studies altogether for one or more semesters. If you are an international student, you could even lose your student visa.

This form of cheating also carries significant personal risks. Providing sensitive personal and financial information to dodgy contract cheating companies, including your UniKey details, puts your money and your identity at risk of being stolen. Some fake tutoring and ghostwriting companies are set up as fronts to blackmail unsuspecting students by threatening to tell their university or future employers about what they have done. They hold their ‘clients’ to ransom unless they pay regular sums of money to the blackmailers.

Why is contract cheating so bad?

Aside from the personal risks, the contract cheating industry poses serious risks to public health and safety. We trust that professionals are properly qualified experts in their fields. Imagine if you were about to receive heart surgery from a surgeon who had someone else complete their assignments about human anatomy for them.

Finally, contract cheating risks undermining the value of your own university degree, by casting doubt on the skills and knowledge of you as a graduate. If you were an employer, would you hire a graduate from a university where cheating was common amongst its students? The risk to a company hiring someone who may have fraudulently acquired their qualifications is something employers are beginning to weigh up.

How can you help solve the problem?

  • Speak with your lecturer or tutor if you’re having difficulties with an assignment or exam. Your teachers are there to help you learn and can provide support.
  • Don’t share assignments with friends – offer to help them with the problem they’re facing and encourage them to seek support.
  • Special consideration is available to help you meet deadlines if you experience illness or something goes wrong.
  • For help developing strong organisational, time management and academic skills, visit the study skills pages.
  •  If you feel stressed or overwhelmed about your studies, you can visit Counselling and Psychological Services to talk with someone.
  • Don’t trust any private services, tutoring, or assignment help services that aren’t affiliated with the university. There are legitimate services available that can help – check out the learning services page.

If you become aware that contract cheating has occurred, you can report it to your lecturer, tutor or to the University’s Office of Educational Integrity. We treat all reports of academic dishonesty made by students as confidential.