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‘Essay mills’ contacting students to offer paid-for cheating service

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Students are being contacted on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram by “promoters” encouraging them to use paid-for essays so they can ace their college work.

A memo from Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) said it was suspected that details of the assignments were either being provided by other students in exchange for discounts, or where students had been hired as “promoters” on campuses.

The background memo said certain types of students were particularly at risk of using ‘essay mills’ for cheating on assignments, including postgraduate students and international students.

The briefing note explained: “Certain cohorts of learners appear to be more vulnerable to use of assignment writing services. In particular: international students where the pressure to succeed is very high and high levels of shame are associated with failing.

“[Also] postgraduate students where again there is a high level of investment in succeeding and learners may have additional financial and other pressures to deal with; and students on business and computer science (and related subject area) programmes.”

The memo went on to explain how there had been massive growth in essay mills that offered “bespoke assignment writing services” to individual studies.

QQI said international research showed as many as one in seven students may have used a contract-cheating service.

Anecdotal evidence suggested this had increased during the pandemic.

The memo – which was sent to the Higher Education Authority last year – said that since March of 2021, “academic integrity alerts” were being sent every six weeks to colleges.  

In a statement, QQI said digital platforms were increasingly being used by essay mills to target students.

A spokeswoman said they had set up systems with TikTok, Google, Facebook, and Instagram where they could report profiles, posts, and search results that offered services which compromised academic integrity.


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