Blog: The importance of academic and personal integrity for students

With European Academic Integrity week and the International day of action against contract cheating, Caroline Campbell and Lorna Waddington, Project Leads for Academic Integrity Strategies LITE Fellowship, examine the rise in contract cheating and why we need to convince our students of the benefits of integrity, both academic and personal.  

International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating Day reminds us of the growing problem of contract cheating and our responsibility to make students aware of the issue, and to provide support and training so that students are not tempted.

What is contract cheating and why should students be aware that what may seem tempting, can have life-changing consequences?

Contract cheating is when a student submits work which they have bought from a third party, typically an essay mill. To find out more, watch this video.

 How do essay mills work? 

Essay mills offer to supply essays, reports etc to suite the purchaser’s needs. They offer discounts – it is a competitive market. They claim the work is of “impeccable” quality but in fact it is often sub-standard, resulting in a fail. They promote a service that will save the student time and stress. They sometimes miss the deadline, causing the customer more stress. They offer a 100% money back guarantee but evidence suggests this is not the case in practice.

They claim that the service offered is legitimate, sometimes implying that institutions approve of their services, but this is most definitely not the case.

When we investigated various essay mills to get an idea of the standard of the work produced, we were shocked – not only was the content appallingly inaccurate, the language was also inaccurate. This essay would have failed. It would also have raised significant questions as to the authorship of the essay.

If you receive an email from someone offering you this kind of service, please forward it to our integrity threats mailbox integritythreats@leeds.ac.uk – this will help us identify how are students are targeted, and we can take measures to protect you and the integrity of your degree.

Potential consequences

Students should also be aware that the default penalty for submitting work that is not their own is exclusion from the University.

Students who decide to use an essay mill are often unaware of the risks involved. For example, students have found that they can be blackmailed – essay mills have been known to demand more money from the student at a later date or they will be reported to their institution.

Students who cheat risk their academic and future careers. It goes without saying that students who cheat present a problem to society. We all want to be safe in the knowledge that the nurse, doctor, midwife, consultant, surgeon, engineer, lawyer, teacher, dentist, optician – the list goes on – obtained their qualifications the honest way.

Our Top tips

First, believe in yourself – you have been offered a place at the University. This means that we believe you are capable of producing the work required.

  • Start planning early and work back from the deadline
  • Make a study plan with a clear sense of what you need to do and by when
  • Have a look at the various resources available to provide guidance – see Developing Academic Skills.
  • Attend a workshop
  • Ask your Module Tutor – they are best placed in the first instance to answer specific questions about the assessment
  • Ask your Academic Personal Tutor – they can advise on various aspects of preparing assessments
  • Request an extension if you are struggling to meet the deadline
  • Submit an application if you have mitigating circumstances which are affecting your ability to study
  • Request that late penalties are waived if you have not been able to meet the deadline
  • Request a further attempt if you fail
  • Get advice from Leeds University Union

Believe in your ability. Be proud of your results you obtain by submitting your own work. Demonstrate your integrity and encourage your peers to do the same.