What is contract cheating?
Contract cheating occurs where a student employs or uses another person to produce a piece of academic work for them, which the student then submits as their own work. Usually this transaction takes place online.
Contract cheating can involve:
- Paying a company to write an assessment task
- Using an unauthorised editing service when completing an assessment task
- Enlisting the help of someone else in undertaking an assessment task (paid or unpaid)
- Using online file sharing services
There are many reasons why students may rely on contract cheating:
- time pressures;
- a lack of confidence in academic writing and conventions
- English as a second language
- family/personal pressure to achieve
- past experiences of low marks
- medical/personal circumstances
- the perception that "everyone is doing it"
Any form of contract cheating is academic misconduct, regardless of the reasons, or intentions.
What are some examples of contract cheating?
- An online company guarantees original, plagiarism-free work written by professional writers. The website tells you its ok to get help; it’s the same as hiring an accountant to do your tax return.
- You’re part of an online group chat and someone adds a third party into the group. You posted a comment about how much work you have to do and they ask if you need any help. You don’t know who they are but they say can get you high marks and their price is fair. They have done this for lots of students who have never gotten into trouble.
- You hire a service to check your spelling and grammar, but they end up re-writing some of your sentences and change the order of your ideas. You like how they have improved your essay so you submit it as is.
- You’re going through a difficult time at home. Your friend offers to write your assignment for you in exchange for lunch and a couple of beers. They took this class last semester and still have a copy of their assignment. You’re in a study group discussing the assignment anyway so it’s OK to get help from your friend.
Many contract cheating 'services' operate through social media platforms like Facebook and WeChat and they may look and sound like legitimate services which are there to help you. Avoid them.
Contract cheating can have long term consequences and students should understand the risks.
What are the risks of contract cheating?
- By asking someone else to complete your academic work, you don’t learn as much as you could have if you did the work yourself.
- What will you do when you need that learning in your future employment?
- Will you be able to do your job properly or will you just be embarrassed in front of your colleagues?
- You could be found guilty of academic misconduct.
- Many of these companies recycle assignments despite guarantees of “original, plagiarism-free work” so similarity is easily detected.
- Penalties for academic misconduct include suspension and exclusion.
- Some students are also required to disclose any findings of guilt for academic misconduct before being accepted into certain professions e.g. law students.
- You could be disclosing your personal and financial information in an unsafe way, leaving yourself open to many risks including possible identity theft.
- You also leave yourself open to blackmail - if you pay someone else to do an assignment for you, they know your secret!
If you are struggling with academic work (or other areas of life which might affect your studies), there are many support services you can access as a UNSW student.
If you’re not sure about what to do or where to get help, talk to someone. Contract cheating is not your only option. In fact it is the worst option and there are always better ways to deal with a problem with your work.
UNSW students who have engaged in contract cheating may be targeted by blackmailers (the person or company that did the work). These people demand money from students and threaten to tell UNSW about the misconduct if the demand is not paid.
While UNSW does not condone contract cheating, students should not be scared to come forward get help if this happens. If you find yourself in this situation, please do not keep quiet. It could cost you so much more than money.
If I don't come forward...
- Blackmail doesn’t end when you complete your degree. It can continue and may get worse.
- Blackmailers will threaten you that if you don’t pay, they will tell the University, or they will tell your family, or your new employer. It might start off as $30 per month, and you think that’s not much, but before you know it, it could increase to hundreds, then thousands…can you afford to pay?
- UNSW might find out about it anyway – even if you don’t disclose it.
- Arc has seen many instances where the blackmailers have contacted UNSW directly, even after being paid, so the student has lost money and gotten in trouble.
- Similarity detection tools may also reveal that the work submitted is not your own, which will lead to a misconduct investigation.
- The punishment might be worse if you don’t volunteer to come forward and admit what has happened.
- You may be disgraced in front of your family and friends. It could ruin your life.
- It can also have significant impact on your emotional wellbeing. You may have to try and keep the secret for the rest of your life!
If I am being blackmailed...
UNSW does NOT condone any form of cheating. However UNSW will help you, if you fully disclose all your past cheating and are completely honest with UNSW. Contract cheating is still misconduct and you must be willing to face your punishment for your mistakes.
- The default penalty will be 0% in the assessment.
- UNSW will offer counselling and support in dealing with this very difficult situation.
- If you are being blackmailed, UNSW can contact the person blackmailing you and put a stop to the threats and demands.
- You can contact Arc Legal & Advocacy for advice about academic misconduct and how to get help from UNSW.
If you have engaged in contract cheating and are now being blackmailed, please contact:
If you’re not sure about what to do or where to get help, talk to someone.