Two firms which write essays for university students in return for payment claim to have had customers from Lancaster who have submitted fraudulent essays.
Research by Lancaster University newspaper SCAN has found that ghost-writers from two different “essay mills” say they have been paid by students in the city to do their work for them.
The students handed in the essays without consequence.
However, the writers are not always from the right discipline, and some aren’t even graduates.
Jeff, a manager for one essay mill – or ‘contract cheating’ – company, told SCAN that his firm offered admissions consulting and coursework.
He said his company could provide an array of services for coursework essays: “whether it’s essay proof-reading, editing or actually putting together the essays.”
Although Jeff said the essays were designed to be used “for research and reference only”, they knew some students don’t follow this guidance and some of them submit it as their own work.
“We’ve had some clients from Lancaster,” Jeff told SCAN. “Some of them have been referred to by people they know from back home who are studying somewhere else.”
He said that more international students paid for proof-reading services, but a roughly equal number of international and home students paid for essays written from scratch.
Jeff said the ‘ghost-writers’ are often recent graduates – but in some cases it is a third year who is close to graduating, meaning they have no qualifications in the subject.
SCAN also spoke to Amelia – a writer for another essay mill that claims to be “the UK’s most popular dissertation writing service” – who said she had a Masters Degree in international business and finance from Brunel University – but said she could write coursework for a student on virtually any topic.
She claimed to have written essays for Lancaster University students, but would not give a number, and said that no student had ever been caught cheating.
She also claimed that she had access to TurnItIn – the university’s plagiarism detection software – and could run the essay through to ensure it would not be flagged.
A university spokesman said: “Lancaster University takes the protection of the standards of its awards very seriously and is committed to ensuring that its students receive due credit for the work they submit for assessment.
“Conscious, pre-meditated cheating is regarded as a serious breach of the core values of the university.”