Major cheating scam in UK becomes popular income-source for Indians
India has ample opportunities in some sectors. Take a quick look, and you will see ads all over for vacancies in BPOs, data entry, or flight cabin crew. Another similar opportunity is 'assignment writing'- you're paid for producing an original assignment, sometimes even full PhD theses, for someone else. Incidentally, what is feeding thousands in India, is becoming a major problem for UK universities.
This trend, which started around 2006 but has grown by leaps and bounds recently, has been termed 'contract cheating.' This helps lazy students bypass their university's plagiarism checker without doing any work themselves. Fees of the writers can range up to £7,000 (Rs. 6.35L) for a PhD dissertation. This "essay mills" industry was estimated to be worth over £100mn (Rs. 905cr) as of February.
Academician Thomas Lancaster, who first reported on the trend along with Robert Clarke, claims Indians form a major section of these writers. Indians have certain advantages: most working in this sector have expert English skills, charge less than UK writers, can handle complex computing-assignments, and are often educated in UK themselves, so are familiar with requirements. But Pakistan, Kenya and Nigeria are major providers too.
Top officials in the UK have agreed that "essay mills" are allowing students to simply buy a degree, which renders the whole education system completely useless. And the industry's reach is vast: more than a year ago, 20,000 students admitted to buying academic essays.
Last October, the UK's Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) confirmed the existence of more than 100 "essay mill" websites. It also asked universities to block such websites: "Attempts to access essay mill sites would be met with a message that access is prohibited." This will "signal that the provider is aware of the sites and reinforce the importance of academic integrity," QAA said.
Earlier this year, Tunitin, Britain's largest provider of monitoring software for universities, launched a new tool called 'Authorship Investigation.' Unlike the current plagiarism checkers which only verify if essays are copied from published material, this new software will assess students' individual writing styles. If any of their submissions diverge from their style drastically, the system will flag it. One can only hope it works as intended.