Students can buy essays guaranteed to achieve a 2:1 - or get their money back
By Daily Mail Reporter
Updated: 18:31 GMT, 4 April 2010
The essays are offered to students as a 'resource' and are not intended to be handed in, the firm says (file picture)
A company is selling dissertations to students with a cashback guarantee if they are not up to a 2:1 standard.
The work costs £700, but for £2,100, UKEssays.com can produce a ghost-written first class version, while £15,000 will pay for an MA dissertation.
The essays are officially offered to students as a ‘resource’ and are not intended to be handed in, say the firm who insists it is not encouraging dishonesty.
The tailor-made service is becoming increasingly popular with students as universities become more efficient at detecting direct plagiarism from the internet.
Most universities now scan submitted work using anti-plagiarism software, but UKEssays promise to test-scan their own copy to ensure it cannot be detected.
Managing director Tony Eynon described his cashback guarantee as ‘a real breakthrough in contemporary academia.’
But Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, told The Sunday Times: ‘It is potentially very serious and undermines the whole fabric of higher education.’
A message on the UKEssays website pledges: ‘The service we offer is 100 per cent legal, very legitimate and won’t make you a cheater.
‘We do understand that some students will use our work dishonestly. This is because there are a lot of essay companies who permit students to simply pass off the work as their own, and so a minority of students confuse us with those companies and assume we offer the same service.
‘We also know that because our work is 100 per cent original and plagiarism free, there is little we can do to regulate that misuse.
‘But we truly believe that a student who uses our work properly – as a guideline for their own research and writing – will benefit from our service a great deal more than a student who just hands in the work as if it were their own – they’re the real essay cheats!’
The firm also pledges compensation of £5,000 plus a full refund if plagiarism is detected in the work, as well as a free re-write.
It boasts of access to 4,000 writing experts, all of whom have obtained a 2:1 degree or higher.
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Thousands of cheating students are paying dodgy firms to write crucial degree papers for them.
Up to 100,000 students a year now use dozens of the shady companies to produce bespoke pieces of work guaranteed to secure high marks.
Alarmingly, one firm even offered to supply our investigators essays at £120 a time to help pass a degree in medicine, potentially enabling a below-par student to qualify for the next stage of training as a junior doctor on a hospital ward.
One leading firm said they had produced “nearly five million words” for students in the current academic year.
Another bragged they had provided essays for students at top institutions such as the London School Of Economics.
Students can even pay extra to get a “distinction” in their degree.
The Sunday Mirror was tipped off about the flourishing industry by a student who had just finished his degree at one of the UK’s most prestigious universities.
He warned: “I know of more students than ever who have paid for degrees this year. I think it’s starting to undermine the entire university system.”
The scam is used to provide coursework essays which count as part of a degree and the lengthy dissertation required on many university courses.
Ads targeting desperate or unscrupulous students are often posted in newsagents’ windows in among the postcards advertising music lessons and childcare, and are easily found on the internet.
Many firms claim their services are intended to merely “guide and inspire”. But our probe proves some admit students can pass off the work as their own.
We were offered a 10,000-word masters dissertation on international relations for £2,000 and undergraduate politics essays for £85 per 1,000 words. A masters dissertation on international public policy was offered for £700.
Labour’s Shadow Universities Minister Liam Byrne said tonight: “We can’t have dodgy degrees undermining Britain’s gold-standard universities.
“The Sunday Mirror’s investigation needs a fast and forensic follow-up. Our world-leading reputation for education is hard to win and easy to lose. We will not stand for cheats, so we need to throw the book at rule-breakers.”
In just one day, our investigator met three firms. In the public interest, they were all filmed with hidden cameras.
Pretending to be a masters student in international public policy at prestigious University College London, our investigator asked a representative of a firm called PDG Content Development if they could help with a detailed dissertation.
The man, who said he was the firm’s project director, told us: “Of course. Our writers do it for you from scratch. You don’t have to do anything. Just submit it as your own. No one will know.”
He continued: “A lot of people have fear. But after the work is finished, they see that they didn’t take a risk for nothing. We’ve never had a problem. You just hand it in. Trust me, it’s fine. We’ve had about 70 people pass in the last year. I promise you a 65 per cent pass rate. Maybe then you bring more customers. We have done it for students at the LSE.”
We were later emailed a payment plan for a dissertation. We were asked to pay £154 – 20 per cent of the £771 fee – up front.
We also met a consultant for “Oxbridge Essays” – one of the industry’s larger players – who openly claim to have helped 15,000 students gain degrees in the past five years. Their website insists their services are intended to merely “guide and inspire” students who are falling behind.
The Advertising Standards Authority has reprimanded them for a “misleading” ad implying that students got their money back if they failed to secure the grade ordered. We visited their central London office, posing as a University of Westminster masters student willing to pay for a 10,000-word dissertation on international relations.
A woman said: “You’ll know the writer by first name. It’s up to you if you want to add other things. As long as you are understanding the content, it will be fine. If you just submit a first-class dissertation, they will automatically know you received help. But if you’re reading it and checking it and making it your own, then no.”
Referring to universities suspecting plagiarism – where other people’s work is passed off as yours – she said: “We use software to check for plagiarism. But I have confidence in him (the writer). You don’t need to send him any books. He’s got his own library. You won’t have to write anything. You might have to make just a few changes so it reads like something you would write yourself.”
Asked if there was a chance of being caught by the university, she said: “We clean everything to do with you.”
She used the firm’s website calculator – taking into account the number of words, time required, and desired grade, from “pass” to “distinction” – to show us a price range of £1,955-£2,380.
Later, we met a representative of a firm called Paper Whiz, also known as Grammarholic. We posed as a University of Westminster politics student.
Insisting that our investigator spoke with him in his BMW, parked outside a station, “Michael” said: “Send me an email with your requirements. We charge £85 for every 1,000 words.
"There is no risk to you. It’s written for you from scratch. So long as you send us the correct instructions, you should pass.”
A fourth firm – Global Essays, also trading as Global Edulink – offered over the phone to provide our investigator with medical school coursework essays for £120 a time.
Asked if the company could supply essays which could be handed in she said: “We can give you a sample report. It’s up to you whether you hand it in or not.”
A study by Birmingham City University found there had been more than 19,000 attempts at cheating by UK students since 2005.
Tonight a man who said he owned PDG Content Development said: “The man you filmed working for us is just an agent.
“People can go to our website and see we only help students and only give them sample papers.”
Oxbridge Essays, Grammarholic and Global Edulink refused to comment.
The cheating problem featured at the International Integrity and Plagiarism Conference in Gateshead last month.
'I know it's wrong but I'd fallen behind and was panicking' says student
A second-year geography student has revealed how she paid £220 for two essays.
The 20-year-old, who is at a respected university in the North, said: “What can I say? I’d fallen behind with my work.
“It happens to everyone. I needed two very good essays to ensure I got the grades to continue on the course next year.
“My lecturer told me I might have to re-sit loads of things or repeat a year.
“All students know about the companies out there who can do it all for you. I was panicking, so I decided to go for it.
“All they needed was the topic and titles of the essays. I had two Skype conversations with one of their writers and, two weeks later, I got the essays. They were brilliant – far better than I could have produced myself.
“I had some money saved for a holiday and I dipped into that.
“They told me to hand them straight in without changing a word, so I did.
“None of my lecturers said a word about them. I got a distinction and a pass, and everything was sorted.”
She added: “I did feel guilty about it for a while – all my friends have had to work really hard for their grades.
"I know it’s cheating and wrong. If my parents knew, they would be devastated. I’m also worried that I’ll be tempted to do it again for my dissertation next year.”
'There's no excuse for cheating' says Nichola Dandridge of Universities UK
Submitting work by someone else is cheating and devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve degrees.
Universities have severe penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own.
Penalties can range from receiving zero marks for a piece of work to, in serious cases, being expelled.
The higher-education sector has done a lot of work to tackle this issue and universities have become more experienced in detecting and dealing with such forms of cheating.
With information now so readily available online, it has become increasingly important to engage with students on this and underline from the outset what constitutes cheating.
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