Australian Government Announces New Laws Against Essay Writing and Other Cheating Services

While most students in Australia do the right thing, cheating services like essay writing or attending an exam on a student’s behalf are somewhat commonplace. In fact, a 2018 report by Frontiers in Education found that 15.7% of respondents admitted to paying someone else to complete their work. 

In light of this, the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment recently announced stricter measures to help cut down on cheating in universities. 

What are the new laws?

While software such as Turnitin has allowed universities to detect plagiarism, it can be difficult to catch those who have had their assignment completed by a third party. Now, stricter legal measures are in place for individuals or companies that offer to take exams or write essays on behalf of students (these are known as ‘contract cheating services’). 

Those found advertising or providing these services can face two years in prison or fines of up to $100,000. This new law will apply regardless of whether the service is based in Australia or overseas. 

In the released statement, Minister for Education Dan Tehan said that the criminalisation of cheating services was necessary in order to uphold Australia’s integrity and reputation as a leader in education: “Organised cheating threatens the integrity of our universities and undermines the hard work done by honest students.” He also sees contract cheating services as “exploiting Australia’s students” in exchange for money, with international students being particularly vulnerable. 

In addition to implementing fines and prison sentences for contract cheaters, the government is funding a new tool for universities that will help identify those using cheating services. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) will give universities across Australia a guide on how to prove that contract cheating has taken place, as well as advice on policies and case studies. 

It will be TEQSA’s role to implement these policies, block contract cheaters and help prevent these cheating services launching in Australia. 

What does this mean for students?

Students will not be targeted by the new law. The Minister for Education stressed that these measures are designed to only tackle the contract cheating industry. “The law targets cheating service providers and advertisers – not students. Students caught cheating will continue to face the conduct and disciplinary processes of their individual institution.” In other words, it’s up to the university to deal with students caught using these services.