Australian and international students have been caught paying up to $1000 for essays and assignments that promise to avoid plagiarism detection and secure pass grades.
Business students have been exposed as the heaviest users of the service, according to hundreds of documents showing evidence of payments in an investigation published by Fairfax Media today into the complex online business MyMaster.
The website, which claimed to be the largest essay-writing service in Sydney, is written in Chinese and aimed at international students. MyMaster reportedly enlists the services of 100 graduate writers from “prestigious universities in Australia” to produce essays, assignments and even complete online tests in exchange for money. The site is now offline.
While the practice affects a range of disciplines across NSW’s university system, those studying business courses and related subjects were found to be the most prominent purchasers. Business, accounting, management and marketing are the top four subjects where students were found to have been using the essay-writing service. Business students alone had 225 documented requests in the last year. Accounting assignments were the next-largest source of business for MyMaster, generating just under 100 requests.
Fairfax reports that from documents it had seen where the university and course of study were identifiable, students at Macquarie University and the University of Newcastle were the biggest customers for the service.
(It’s unclear whether this shows students from these universities were the biggest customers – only that they were identifiable by the documents.)
A spokesperson for Macquarie University told Business Insider it “takes allegations of academic dishonesty very seriously” and was concerned by the reports, but the numbers involved represented only a tiny number of the international students.
“Universities are aware that a small number of students will be tempted to cheat, and go to great efforts to prevent it in the first instance through education and codes of conduct, to detect it via a variety of methods, and to punish it where it is detected,” the spokesperson said. “The MyMaster payments represent less than one per cent of international students at Macquarie University. It’s unfortunate that their actions sully the reputations of the vast majority of honest and hardworking international students.”
Fairfax discovered a University of Newcastle Business School student had forked out more than $1500 for five different course assignments. The university has been contacted for comment.
Management and marketing came next in terms of demand, followed by arts and social sciences, and then economics.
Assignment prices are advertised as a flat rate and are based on the number of words and qualification requirements. The rates, which range from $13 to $1050, promise a pass or credit grade, but prices can be negotiated for work which would potentially qualify a distinction or high distinction grade.
Students at interstate universities including RMIT, La Trobe University, Curtin University and the Queensland University of Technology have also been linked to the sydnicate.
The website has reportedly turned over hundreds of thousands of dollars, generating more than $160,000 in 2014 alone.
Here’s a translated version of one of the business’ advertising flyers, which was discovered at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).
“Are you racking your brains on your school work? Do you worry about spending $3000 retaking tuition on the failing subject? Leave your worries to MyMaster and make your study easier!”
Despite eight Australian universities making it into the top 200 of the Times Higher Education 2014-2015 World University Rankings, the report questioned Australia’s ability to maintain its global standing given the possibility of national fee deregulation. Asia had three times as many universities as Australia in the top 200.
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