USyd welcomes new laws to punish contract cheating

The laws propose up to two years' imprisonment for those caught providing contract cheating services

The University of Sydney has welcomed legislation released by the Federal Government today which will penalise anyone who provides or advertises contract cheating services with up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to $210,000.

The proposed law comes amid a campus-wide campaign by the University of Sydney Union and the University against contract cheating.

The law defines contract cheating services broadly, including the provision of assistance with assignments and exams, or supplying any part of a piece of work that a student is required to complete.

An official spokesperson told Honi that the university supported the draft legislation.

“We are pleased to see that the Federal Government has developed mechanisms for having contract cheating websites and advertisements blocked by internet search engines and carriage services including social media platforms.”

The University’s Educational Integrity Report indicated a growing number of contract cheating incidents in 2018 with more than 86 potential cases, amounting to 3% of all academic dishonesty allegations in 2018, and vastly overshadowed by plagiarism incidents at 1407 or 44%.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan condemned the impact of academic cheating on university students.

“The Morrison Government is targeting the people who are making money exploiting Australia’s students,” said Mr Tehan.

A USyd submission to the Higher Education Standards Panel back in March urged more expansive powers for TEQSA to address the weaknesses of comparable authorities in New Zealand.

Under the law, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will be given the power to investigate and prosecute offenders, and disable access to websites promoting such services.

USyd’s submission also cited “significant concern” over international student participation in contract cheating.

“Chinese-language cheating services have been able to target students coming to us from China through WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms,” said Deputy Vice Chancellor (Education) Philippa Pattison in USyd’s submission.

In 2018, USyd traced potential breaches of academic integrity to three Chinese-language tutoring colleges. One of the colleges, Yingcredible, promoted its services by representing an affiliation with several Sydney-based universities, including USyd.

The proposed laws will not be debated until Parliament resumes for its Winter Session in early May.