As University students, all of us, at some point, will have written essays. As much as we’d like to be able to boast that we can write one in two hours before the deadline, they’re not always the easiest things to write. The worst outcome of all is when you’ve spent more than two weeks slaving away on it and you still don’t get the mark you want. Then, you realise that some of your classmates didn’t even have to do the essay – instead, they paid someone to write it for them.
According to a recent article from The Telegraph, figures from two of the UK’s largest essay-writing services (also referred to as contract writing, or essay mills) have revealed that more than 20,000 students are purchasing professional essays every year, with more than a third enrolled at Russell Group and Oxbridge Universities. These essay mills operate in all sorts of ways, but most involve producing a paper written by professionals that fit the requirements of your assignment, and giving you the rights over it. Many students would take these essays and turn them in as their own. In other words, they help you to cheat.
in the UK, essay mills and contract cheating in itself are not lawfully illegal.
These essays are very costly, so why would university students, who boast to be broke half the time, use these services? For some, it is the pressure to achieve a good mark. University is the last step before adulthood, and there are certainly many things to juggle in the years there. Academics aside, there is ever-essential career building, as well as health, sleep and a social life. At least, we try to keep this balance. Most of us fail.
It is the life-work imbalance that makes some students go for these essay mills. With too much work and too little time, students succumb to the many advertisements they see on Facebook. The work comes back and does achieve excellent results, enticing the student to continue buying their essays. This is a vicious cycle that only encourages students to become less and less motivated to develop their own work and rely on these essay mills. For others, they may even find it unfulfilling or pointless to even do their own essays – why should they waste perfectly good time when they can simply pay to get out of it? In the end, a student’s entire degree may be built on falsehoods.
But why are essays so important? Why are degrees so important? University isn’t a cheap affair. We, and sometimes our parents, have given up time, money, and effort to achieve a degree, be it undergraduate or postgraduate study. Through University, we learn through academic work, as well as through interacting with other people, picking up both knowledge and practical skills. However, these elements are not quantifiable. Ultimately, it is the degree, the final score, that appeals to employers and further education programs.
What if you don’t have a degree? While it’s certainly not a death sentence, it is harder and harder for people to go into new fields of employment without a degree, especially in broader fields such as business. Often, the undergraduate degree is a necessary prerequisite to professional qualifications. In big cities, for example London, it is almost impossible to get a job that has appropriate pay and benefits without a degree, while some professions even require postgraduate degrees.
But none of these justify buying your essay. In New Zealand and some parts of the USA, it is illegal to “advertise or provide third party assistance to cheat”. Students who pay for their essays can also be charged for fraud as they involve false representation and failure to disclose certain information. However, in the UK, essay mills and contract cheating in itself are not lawfully illegal. Moreover, these services are often disguised as providing “revision aid” or “study guides”. Others argue that the written essay is only “for reference” – the student’s decision to turn it in as their own work has nothing to do with the service provider. Even if there are laws, it will still be hard to ascertain between those who provide genuine academic support and essay mills.
Even on the persecution level, it’s almost impossible to detect students who have paid for their essays – it’s all original work, so it’s not going to light up in any plagiarism machines. Markers and tutors have no way of discovering that a student hasn’t written an essay themselves. Legislation seems to be impossible at this stage, so all we can rely on is students’ own moral integrity.
Even if [a graduate who used essay mills’] CV looks good, a bit of conversation and actual work will expose the lack of relevant skills or depth of knowledge
Contract writing in itself seems like a pretty sweet deal. Low risk, high return. However, the reasons as to why you shouldn’t use these services are very apparent. Putting aside the moral issues, by doing so, other students are put in an unfair position. Similarly, the offending student would have also wasted the money, time, and effort spent in University, because he or she would not have been able to gain any skills, since he or she hadn’t done any work at all. Even if the CV looks good, a bit of conversation and actual work will expose the lack of relevant skills or depth of knowledge, and the transferable skills that we pick up in university through proper learning can benefit us for a lifetime.
There’s no harm in asking for help every now and then. Professors, tutors, coursemates – many of them will be more than happy to guide you in your work. Many disciplines have their own specific writing centres to assist you. Cheating by the way of buying your essays may not be illegal, but it is certainly morally unsound, as well as taking away some of the most important parts of tertiary education. All in all, as long as you are willing to improve yourself, help will be given.