This week, Turnitin issued the following statement about the U.K. action to ban essay mills. – ETC editors
Turnitin, a leading provider of academic integrity solutions in UK universities and globally, has welcomed news that the UK Government has criminalised the unethical practice of paid-for essay writing services, commonly known as contract cheating.
This week, Skills Minister, Alex Burghart, announced that providing, arranging, or advertising essay mill services for financial gain to students at institutions in England—including colleges, universities, and sixth forms—is now a criminal offence as part of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill.
Providing pre-written or custom-made essays for students to present as their own is already illegal in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Standing alongside the NUS, JISC, and numerous academics from across the country, Turnitin shared insights with former Universities Minister Chris Skidmore MP on the issue as part of Mr Skidmore’s investigation into the rise of essay mills and his proposed Essay Mills (Prohibition) Bill.
Aaron Yaverski, Turnitin Regional VP for Europe, said: “With an estimated one in seven students falling prey to essay mills, we wholeheartedly back the Government’s decision to take action on what is a growing problem in universities in the UK.
“The increasing prevalence of contract cheating prevents real, authentic learning; diminishes the significance of higher education degrees; and jeopardises the reputations of universities and colleges. Authentic learning is especially critical in high-stakes fields, such as in professions that make safety and medical decisions.
“Essay mills use clever marketing techniques to deliberately target students who may be feeling anxious or vulnerable. We’ve seen essay mills sponsor articles to appear as reliable news in attempts to assure that their practices are not unethical. This is especially the case in recent times, with students targeted with social media ads offering special ‘coronavirus discounts’ from commercial writing services.
“By making these services illegal, the Government is sending a strong signal to those behind essay mills that what they do is harmful and unacceptable.”
While Turnitin has welcomed the fact that the new measures will crack down on the perpetrators of essay mills, the company stresses that students who use such services need to be treated with more care.
Yaverski continued: “In many cases, academic misconduct is unintentional—a skills and knowledge gap. Students may be unaware that using an essay mill is wrong, particularly when the companies behind them use such persuasive and manipulative marketing techniques. At Turnitin, we believe that alongside legislation, preventing contract cheating requires a multipronged approach: establishing and defining institutional policies; educating both instructors and students about the importance of academic integrity; and providing accessible, sustainable solutions to uphold best practices—including adopting tools that support prevention and investigation.”
In collaboration with members of the QAA Academic Integrity Advisory Group, which includes Turnitin’s Gill Rowell, Turnitin runs regular online sessions that identify the predatory tactics used by essay mills and give guidance on how to prevent contract cheating through education and regulation.