The Australian Parliament is currently considering the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019. If passed, this legislation gives effect to the Government’s decision to implement recommendations of the Higher Education Standards Panel to introduce deterrents to third party academic cheating services in higher education.
Key Issues —
The Panel, which advises the Commonwealth Minister for Education on higher education quality and regulatory matters, recommended that legislative action be taken to make it an offence to provide, arrange, or advertise academic cheating services. The Panel’s recommendation drew on New Zealand’s approach to prohibit academic cheating services. The Panel recommended that legislation focus on the conduct of those who provide cheating services, and not on students who might use such services. Students who cheat remain subject to their institutions’ own academic integrity policies, processes and sanctions, and any consequences that may flow from those.
In considering this matter, the Australian Government accepted advice, tendered by the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), and other stakeholders, that the growing availability and provision of academic cheating services poses a significant threat to the integrity and reputation of the global higher education sector. Third party cheating activity can take several forms, but commonly involves the provision of bespoke academic material that is subsequently submitted by a student as their own work for assessment, or a third party impersonating a student in an exam or practical test.
In academic circles, this type of cheating activity is often referred to as ‘contract cheating’, on the basis that the student’s work is being outsourced or ‘contracted out’ to another person or organisation. Promotion of cheating services to students has become pervasive through on-campus advertising, email and social media. Students of Australian higher education providers are being inundated with targeted promotions for cheating services highlighting their ease of access, minimal cost and low risk of detection; all the while playing down the ethical dishonesty involved.
The new offences created by the Bill will assist higher education providers to more easily demonstrate to students, to academic cheating services, and to their broader stakeholders that cheating activity is not only unethical but illegal. Illegal behaviour will be simpler to detect, gather evidence about, and, if necessary, for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to investigate and refer to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The criminalisation of these behaviours will also demonstrate to Australia’s international market of potential students, their parents/guardians, foreign governments, and overseas employers that Australia takes the quality and integrity of its higher education system, its higher education qualifications, and its graduates very seriously. These new offences demonstrate Australia’s commitment to doing all it can to counteract threats to that integrity.
This issue is important to the ITECA membership given that independent higher education providers support around 10% of the 1.5 million students in higher education.
Member Engagement —
ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Higher Education Reference Committee.
Further Information —
For more information on this issue please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 1300 421 017. Stay up to date via Twitter @ITECAust or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/ITECAust.
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