Strict penalties for contract cheaters in Australia

Published 10/04/2019

Contract cheaters who write fake essays or even sit exams on behalf of real students could face prison time or hefty fines in Australia if a new piece of draft legislation is passed.

The Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services bill, released in early April, looks to stamp out the practice after several highly reported cases by proposing up to two years imprisonment or fines of up to $210,000.

“It’s not worth it — you’ll end up ruining your education and your career”

“Cheating is wrong and the… government is targeting the people who are making money exploiting Australia’s students,” said education minister Dan Tehan.

“If you write another person’s university essay that’s cheating and you’re ripping off other hard-working students, and also undermining our world-class education system.”

Under the bill, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency will receive additional powers to investigate and act against contract cheating services, and seek court injunctions to prevent access to their websites.

TEQSA, which in 2017 issued a guidance note to address contract cheating, also received additional funding in the 2018/19 budget to develop approaches in the lead up to the draft bill, including data collection.

Stakeholders have welcomed the draft bill and Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said services that promote academic misconduct should “not be tolerated”.

“Universities are working actively against contract cheating but strong disincentives would make cheating companies or services think again,” she said.

“Students who cheat face tough university penalties like expulsion and suspension from their studies. It’s not worth it — you’ll end up ruining your education and your career.”

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations said they support the bill in principle, but called for more funding for student advocacy services to understand the reasons for academic misconduct and to ensure those accused are treated fairly.

“Criminalising the sale of contract cheating is a step in the right direction to promote academic integrity,” said national president Natasha Abrahams.

“However, this must be part of a multi-pronged approach, including full funding for independent student advocacy and support services.”

Consultation for the bill is open until 28 June.

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