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UK Government Ministers support higher education providers’ pledge to combat the threat of essay mills and academic misconduct

Date: April 21 - 2021

118 higher education providers across the UK have demonstrated their commitment to protecting academic integrity and combatting the threat posed by essay mills and other forms of academic misconduct by signing up to QAA’s Academic Integrity Charter.

The Charter was developed with the support of the UK Academic Integrity Advisory Group. It sets out seven principles that signatories commit to implementing within their institutions, and has been welcomed by UK Government Ministers.

Academic misconduct is a growing problem globally and presents a threat to the UK higher education sector’s world-class reputation. It takes a wide variety of forms including the use of essay and degree mills, plagiarism, collusion between students and forged or altered qualification certificates, through to fake institutions and questionable accreditation bodies.

Students who commit academic misconduct, especially if they deliberately cheat, risk their academic and future careers.

The seven principles in the Charter will help providers develop their own policies and practices to ensure that each student’s qualification is genuine, verifiable and respected.

QAA is inviting all remaining UK universities and colleges offering higher education to join the 118 current signatories, to demonstrate a sector-wide commitment to the promotion and protection of academic integrity.

The seven principles are:

  • All members of a higher education provider’s community are responsible for embedding and upholding academic integrity.
  • Taking a holistic ‘whole community’ approach, covering all provision.
  • To work together as a sector.
  • To engage with and empower students.
  • To empower and engage with staff.
  • To have consistent and effective institutional policies and practices.
  • To take responsibility as autonomous institutions for promoting and maintaining the quality and integrity of provision, and securing the academic standards of awards.

Douglas Blackstock, QAA’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Every university and college that signs the Charter is demonstrating its own, and a collective, commitment to promote academic integrity. The growth of essay mills cuts across all levels of education and isn’t confined to the UK. The Charter is a significant step forward, but we also need action from governments and internet service providers to make it impossible for essay mills to function.’

Michelle Donelan, Universities Minister, said: ‘Degree fraud cheats both learners and employers and has no place at all in our higher education system. This Government is committed to tackling academic misconduct, and upholding the hard work of students, especially during this difficult time.

‘I welcome the introduction of QAA’s Academic Integrity Charter and encourage all universities and colleges to join this sector-wide effort to protect our students and uphold the integrity of our world leading higher education.’

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Higher Education Minister, said: ‘We know that academic misconduct is a growing problem globally, and presents a threat to the reputation of higher education worldwide, so we must be vigilant in cracking down on anyone involved in this practice.

‘While all universities have disciplinary procedures in place, I welcome the Academic Integrity Charter for UK Higher Education, published last year by QAA, which will help our institutions combat the issue. I am pleased to see so many institutions have now signed up to the Charter - a signal of the sector’s collective commitment to take action to tackle this problem.'