Australian university students are outsourcing as the cost of living comes under pressure – and experts say this could have dire consequences once they enter the workforce.
Contract fraud, where students pay someone else to do their assignments for them, is becoming more common.
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Websites advertise the services, in some cases promising a 1000-word essay that passes plagiarism checks for as little as $20.
dr Guy Curtis, of the University of Western Australia, told 7NEWS.com.au that up to one in ten students committed the crime, according to his research.
Of these, 95 percent were not caught.
Curtis, co-editor of the forthcoming book Contract Cheating In Higher Education, said that students who speak English as a second language are more likely to cheat.
“It’s hard to study at university,” he said.
“It’s even harder to learn if it’s not your first language.
“So that just adds pressure on students to either put themselves in a position where they don’t think they can do their job well enough, or they need help.”
Universities have strict requirements, especially for international students, to demonstrate their English proficiency before being admitted to a course.
A test used by many institutions is the International English Language Testing System. However, some applicants bypass this screening by paying someone else to take the test for them.
“The other thing is, if students are there and they’re surviving these things, ideally we need to pick up students with poor English and help them,” Curtis said.
“Otherwise we would have to pick up students with insufficient English and cancel their enrollment.”
Another factor, he said, is students struggling with the rising cost of living.
As the cost of housing, food and education increases as inflation rises, students have to work more hours.
This means they have fewer hours to study and, with deadlines creepingly tightening, feel the need to outsource their tasks.
According to the federal government’s Study Australia website, students should budget up to $700 a week for non-accommodation-related expenses, including groceries, bills and transportation.
The Department of Home Affairs has financial requirements for international students to obtain visas to study in Australia.
Students and guardians need over AUD$21,000 to even be considered for a visa.
Inflation is also currently at 6.1 percent and is likely to have risen again when the next updated data is released in October.
Curtis said students are often introduced to contract fraud online.
“There are websites where students can ask a question and get an answer in about 20 minutes,” Curtis said.
“Now if they’re taking an online test and they have an open deadline or something, they can just answer all the questions, put them on one of these sites and ask someone to give them all the answers. and then insert all of those answers into the test they take.”
A quick Google search will uncover several dozen sites offering contract fraud services.
Some advertise the sale of a personalized attachment to be used at the buyer’s “discretion”.
But Curtis warns that the problem could quickly spiral out of control.
Last month students studying medicine at Oxford University were forced to retake an exam amid allegations of fraud and information dissemination.
The six-year degree is ranked as the best medical degree in the world by Times Higher Education and is one of the most competitive to enroll in.
dr Sanja Thompson, the exam chair, wrote that it was “impossible” to know how many students had cheated, leaving the whole year having to retake the exam.
“You know, if it can happen in the medical school at Oxford University, the chances that it won’t happen anywhere else is pretty much zero,” Thomson said.
But what are the consequences of contract fraud?
Curtis acknowledged that it might not be there initially, but eventually a student who “doesn’t know their way around” could graduate.
“It’s really scary because, for example, you would hope that a doctor would know what they were doing,” he said.
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