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Academic integrity strategies

Academic integrity strategies: positive, preventative and punitive

Caroline Campbell (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies) & Lorna Waddington (School of History)

Project overview

This project will consider the growing problem of contract cheating. The complex issues surrounding plagiarism continue to challenge Higher Education Institutions worldwide.

While considerable work has been undertaken by the University of Leeds, in our roles as Assessment Lead/Academic Integrity Lead, our initial discussions with colleagues across the University confirm that there is still much to be done.

As Harper et al (2018) state, ‘teaching staff are integral to preventing and managing this emerging form of cheating, yet there has been little evidence-based research to inform changes to their practice’.

A preliminary survey of University of Leeds staff has revealed that there is very little understanding of this problem. Indeed, some colleagues wondered whether or not discussing contract cheating would ‘give students ideas’.

Current research suggests the opposite i.e. universities cannot ignore this problem and staff must discuss it with students. Students also need to be made aware of the many problems involved in contract cheating, including blackmail.

We also need to consider the major factors contributing to this rise in contract cheating.

With that in mind our project would build upon some of the findings contained in the 2016 Quality Assurance Agency Plagiarism in Higher Education report which states that there is a ‘growing threat to UK higher education from custom essay writing services’ and ‘that there is no single solution and that…organisations…need to take action on a number of fronts’.

However, we also want to ensure that we consider ways to positively scaffold students so that they take a sense of pride in completing their own work.

Project progress

Academic Integrity Resources: One of the key findings of our 2020 student survey was that students identified a gap in being informed about academic integrity issues, including contract cheating, and they would like the information to be delivered in a more student friendly way. Using Pedagogical Research In the Arts funding provided by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, we appointed three Academic Integrity student ambassadors to discuss this further. We're pleased to share the resources that they designed. Download the essay mills poster (PDF). Download the Academic skills resource for students (PDF).

Read Lorna and Caroline's journal article, Academic Integrity Strategies: Student Insights (open access).

Academic integrity is a global issue, highlighted by the International Day of Action against Contract Cheating. To mark the day in 2021, Lorna and Caroline released a blog focusing on project progress to date and offering tips for how to support students.

To mark European Integrity Week 2020, Lorna and Caroline released their first blog as part of their fellowship. The blog looks at the serious issue of essay mills and the consequences for students of getting involved with them.

If you would like to find out more about the project contact Caroline ( or Lorna (

Each fellowship has a project sponsor that helps the fellows achieve impact across the institution. The sponsor for this fellowship is Alice O’Grady.