TEQSA leading action to combat illegal commercial academic cheating services

TEQSA’s Higher Education Integrity Unit has commenced sharing intelligence about commercial academic cheating services with Australian higher education providers.

Today, the agency released a dataset to the sector. The data, in the form of assignments, was obtained by Australian researchers looking into the global activities of commercial academic cheating services.

The researchers worked with anti-cheating software provider Turnitin to analyse the data, identifying 2628 instances where substantially similar assignments had been submitted through the Turnitin licenses of 78 Australian education institutions between 2015 and 2019.

The Australian providers included 34 universities, 27 higher education providers, 2 non-higher-education providers and 15 other providers, with the assignments covering a broad range of disciplines.

The data also showed evidence of cheating affecting universities and educational institutions in several other countries and TEQSA is in the process of putting the necessary legal instruments in place to enable sharing the data with its international partners.

TEQSA CEO Alistair Maclean said that intelligence sharing was part of TEQSA’s multi-pronged approach to combatting commercial academic cheating services.

“TEQSA is taking both enforcement and educative approaches to prevent, detect and respond to commercial academic cheating services, which threaten the integrity of Australian higher education,” Mr Maclean said.

“New laws enacted in September 2020 give TEQSA the power to gather, store and share information about illegal cheating service operators and provides penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment or fines of up to $110,000 for providing or advertising academic cheating services.

“TEQSA’s Higher Education Integrity Unit is presently investigating a number of services – including the sources of this data - with a view to pursuing further enforcement action in the coming months.

“Our investigative and intelligence sharing activities are backed by our work with providers and academics to strengthen their ability to prevent, detect and respond to cases of commercial cheating and strengthen students’ understanding of why cheating is never the right answer.”

Australia’s anti-cheating laws target the operators of these unethical services – individual students who pay to cheat are subject to their institution’s disciplinary policies.

“Our enforcement focus continues to be the operators of these illegal and unethical websites,” Mr Maclean said.

Anti-cheating resources, including a new suite of materials for students, can be accessed via the TEQSA website, which also has information about reporting suspected illegal cheating services targeting Australian students.

Media enquiries 

Bryan Allchin, Assistant Director, Communications: comms@teqsa.gov.au, 0437 143 012

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