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QAA briefs members on identifying the potential use of essay mills

Date: November 23 - 2021

QAA has developed a briefing to support members identify the potential use of essay mills at their institutions. The briefing has been developed following an analysis of documents QAA received from the Australian Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) under the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies.

The anonymised documents were passed to QAA as TEQSA believed they might have originated as work undertaken by essay mills, paid for by students and then submitted as their own work. In total, QAA received a total of 2510 documents - all of which were extracted from suspected essay mill sites and matched against Turnitin records for matches to any uploaded work.

Based on analysis of a representative selection of the data obtained from TEQSA, QAA has developed this briefing to provide information to QAA Members about potential essay mills use within their institutions. The analysis was completed by Professor Karen Willis, Professor Emerita, Academic Quality and Enhancement at the University of Chester.

Although each document only indicated the potential use of essay mills, taken collectively they allowed conclusions to be drawn to support QAA Members' institutional policies and procedures. In particular, the analysis demonstrates the importance of avoiding overreliance on plagiarism software, if it means other indicators of essay mills use might be missed.

Gareth Crossman, QAA’s Head of Policy and Communications commented: 'Essay mills threaten the integrity of UK higher education worldwide and prey on vulnerable students. Through this briefing, QAA aims to share intelligence with our members to support them in taking action against essay mill use and promoting academic integrity within their own institutions.'

The briefing is available to QAA Members via the Membership Resources site. Those from QAA Member institutions can register to use the site by completing this simple form. 180 institutions have now signed up to the Academic Integrity Charter, launched last year by QAA with the endorsement of higher education ministers from across the UK. Those who have not yet done so can view the Charter and sign up through the QAA website.