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Contract Cheating Guidance for Students

Owned by

Senate

Maintained by

Academic Services

Last Updated

Aug-20

Approved on

20-Jul-20

Effective from

Aug-20

Review Date

Aug-21

Current Version

1

Guidance for students on ‘Contract Cheating’
Our Brunel community believes that the diligence and effort shown by virtually all students must not be undermined by a dishonest minority trying to gain an unfair advantage with their work. The University takes a hard-line where allegations of ‘Contract Cheating’ are found to be proved, as it represents a threat to academic standards and academic integrity and in turn to UK Higher Education as a whole.

1. What is ‘Contract Cheating’?
The University considers ‘Contract Cheating’ to have taken place where a student:

  • obtains or purchases work from another person/organisation; and

  • submits it for assessment as their own; and

  • such third-party input/assistance is not permitted.

    ‘Contract Cheating’ includes:

  • the use of ‘essay mills’ and/or ghost-writing,

  • buying work online (including code and/or games),

  • getting someone to conduct your research; and /or

  • impersonating you in an exam.

An ‘essay mill’ is an organisation or individual, usually with a web presence, that contracts with students to complete a piece of work for a student for a fee.

This guidance is supplementary to the procedure for investigating and dealing with allegations of ‘Contract Cheating’ set out in:

  • Senate Regulation 6: Student Conduct (Academic and Non-Academic)(revised version) (SR6.21e); and

  • Paragraph 22 e of the Academic Misconduct Procedure.

Advice and guidance about the academic misconduct procedure can be obtained by contacting conduct@brunel.ac.uk.

2. How does ‘Contract Cheating differ to Proof-reading?
Quality checking, sense checking and revising work are of course seen as important elements in the preparation of your assignment and you are encouraged to proof-read your own work before submitting it for assessment.

  • The University’s Academic Skills team (ASK) does not offer a proof-reading service or correct every mistake, but is happy to discuss your work and provide support on topics including:
    • writing style and structure;
    • presentations,
    • time management; and
    •  

You can send ASK a 500-word sample of your work to ask@brunel.ac.uk and obtain feedback. The aim of this is for you to develop good proof-reading skills for yourself.

  • If you have a disabilityand have registered with Student Wellbeing, the Assistive Technology Centre (ATC) can provide you with a wide range of assistive technology, including spellchecking and proofreading software. Study skills support, including proof-reading, is also commonly facilitated by Student Wellbeing if you have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia.

If, however, you are found to have used and/or paid for the services of a third- party proof reader or copy editor, this may constitute cheating depending on the scale of the changes to your work. For example, if the final work you submit is substantially different to that which you originally wrote and the changes were made following proof-reading or copy editing by a third party for a fee, the University may take steps to assess whether contract cheating has occurred.

3. How does the University determine whether ‘Contract cheating’ has happened?

  • All the summative assessments which you submit whilst at University will be scanned through URKUND / WISEflow. The databases used by this software not only consists of material from books, academic journals, websites and magazines, but also contains assignments previously submitted to universities around the world and the work of other students at the University.
  • Your work will be reviewed to ascertain whether you have:
    • followed the University’s guidance on citations and referencing;
    • properly referenced taught materials, recommended reading and any other sources;
    • made other submissions which vary in style.
  • You may also have to submit outlines or drafts of your work. The draft documents which you submit may be retained by your Taught Programmes Office (TPO) for comparison with the final submission of your work.
  • Viva assessment may also be used as a means of checking your work where suspicions are raised prior to a formal investigation, and/or during the investigation of an allegation of ‘contract cheating’ (as described at section 4 below). A viva is a face-to- face meeting in which you would be asked to respond orally to questions about your work. If a viva is held, the following procedure will be followed:
    • You will be given at least 5 working days’ notice of the viva and be informed of the purpose of the meeting.
    • The viva will not determine whether an allegation of ‘contract cheating’ is substantiated but be used to gather evidence. A detailed written note of the viva will be taken.
    • You will be asked to attend (along with your permitted representative) as well as an academic subject expert (normally the person making the allegation).
    • The viva will be chaired by someone independent of the concern or allegation. o You will be allowed to present evidence at the viva, such as date-stamped draft copies of your work.
    • The academic subject expert will normally ask you questions about your work to ascertain whether you understand what you have submitted.

Please note: The test for considering allegations or suspicions of contract cheating is the balance of probabilities. This means the evidence will need to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that you have committed this offence. It is not necessary to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you have done it.

4. What will happen where there is a suspicion that you may have engaged in ‘Contract cheating’?
The University's Academic Misconduct Procedure sets out the formal process for considering allegations of ‘Contract cheating’.

A concern that you have committed ‘Contract cheating’ should be reported to the Deputy Dean (Academic Affairs) of the student’s College. The Deputy Dean (Academic Affairs) will then determine whether a formal investigation of the concern is required and if so, will appoint an Investigating Officer to investigate the concern under the process in paragraphs 27-32 of the Academic Misconduct Procedure.

Once the formal investigation has been concluded the Investigating Officer will provide a report to the Deputy Dean (Academic Affairs) who will decide the next course of action. This may include referring the case to the Secretary to the Professional Suitability and Misconduct Board for consideration by the Vice Chancellor’s Representative (VCR) or an Academic Misconduct Panel. Alternatively, the Deputy Dean (Academic Affairs) may decide that the student’s conduct relates to poor academic practice, in which case the concern will be dismissed and you will be warned about future practice and directed to sources of guidance and information. (Academic Misconduct Procedure, paragraph 33).

The VCR and Academic Misconduct Panel will weigh up the evidence in the case and make a decision on the balance of probabilities as to whether it is more likely than not that you have committed the offence of ‘Contract cheating’.

5. What if you are found to have committed the offence of ‘Contract cheating’ on the balance of probabilities?
If it is determined that it is more likely than not that you have committed ‘Contract Cheating’ on the balance of probabilities the likely penalty is expulsion. However, each case is considered on its own merits and there are a range of possible penalties.

Your application to be admitted into a regulated profession may also be put at risk if you are found to have engaged in ‘contract cheating’. This is because you may be seen to have failed to maintain the appropriate standards required by the relevant professional body and this could compromise your professional suitability. The Professional Suitability Procedure sets out the process to be followed when professional suitability concerns are raised.

6. What does the University do to prevent ‘Contract cheating’?
Along with raising awareness of the definitions of academic misconduct, the University takes other preventative action which may, where possible, include:

  • removing posters appearing on campus which advertise essay mill websites;
  • working with 3rd party vendors to block essay mill websites from contacting students via email and social media; and
  • sending ‘cease and desist’ correspondence to essay mill companies.

Should you become aware of essay mill websites advertising their services, or are contacted by an essay mill company, you may report this by emailing conduct@brunel.ac.uk.

7. Additional support
Further support is available at the University to enable you to develop skills in studying, academic writing, the use of academic sources, paraphrasing and research. For example:

  • The University’s Academic Skills Team (ASK) offers a comprehensive writing and study skills service including writing and learning workshops.
  • The Brunel Language Centre provides free English Language support to all current Brunel University students who have English as a second language, including for academic writing.
  • The Graduate School provides workshops and seminars for students on Academic Writing, Technical Writing, Thesis Writing, Writing for Academic Publications and Writing Research Grant Proposals.
  • All Academic Departments at Brunel have a named Academic Liaison Librarian (ALL). This service is provided via the Library Academic Services Team, which offers tailored support, including citing, referencing and tips for avoiding plagiarism.
  • Your Personal Tutor can provide academic support and guidance.
  • The Student Support and Welfare Team is available to offer support and guidance on a range of personal and welfare issues helping you to overcome particular challenges that you may face so that you can achieve your university goals.