Essay Mills

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I was reading the news on the train this afternoon, and I read that over 40 University vice-chancellors have signed a letter calling for the government to ban essay mills. Immediately, after reading this, I said to myself ‘what is an essay mill?’. Well, that’s why I am writing this.

What is an Essay Mill?

Edubirdie is a website which was recently in the news for being used as a sponsor for youtubers, which attracted controversy.
Edubirdie- a popular Essay mill service.

In essence, essay mills are services wherein students can pay money to have an essay written for them. These days, a lot of these services are based online, though they work in the same manner. These services hire graduates, postgraduates, masters students, and professional writers to ghostwrite essays for students, ostensibly as a guide, or for reference. Though, obviously, there are students who submit these essays as their own work.

What is wrong with Essay Mills?

Legally, nothing. In the UK, there is no law against purchasing an essay. I could use one of these websites, and purchase an essay for one of my modules. If I make a few edits, and add to it, then I can submit an essay. It takes a lot of work out of the planning process for students, and it isn’t hard to see why one in seven students have used these websites. 

Morally, however, these websites are incredibly unethical. If you are paying to achieve good grades, then you are not earning your degree, in my mind. Some people would argue, especially websites, that they do not advertise selling essays for submission, but for guidance. Others would say that business is business and that society puts too much pressure on people, causing customers to go to these services. 50,000 students were caught out for plagiarism in 2016. When under 4 million students nationally were studying during the 2015/2016 academic year, then 50,000 is not a large number, but large enough to warrant concern.

Are universities right to do this?

I certainly think they are. Universities are businesses, to a certain extent. While they are public institutions, they rely on student finance, they are a business. They also have a certain level of prestige, which must be kept up. If you have a problem with students plagiarising, then you risk losing your prestige. I think Universities are justified to be concerned.

However, I don’t think universities are blameless. While I am sure that plenty of students are lazy and do this to get an easy degree, I don’t think that’s the entire problem. Students coming into university may lack confidence to write at that level, and expectations are getting higher as more students than ever are going to university. My university, Edge Hill, has lecturers who give us exemplar answers of what they expect. Moreso, lecturers who take time to look at drafts, and offer advice.

If universities take those provisions, I think we can stamp out plagiarism.

About the author

Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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