UK to ban 'essay mills' in sweeping post-16 education reforms

British government announces plan to crack down on 'cheating services'

It will soon be a criminal offence in England to provide, arrange or advertise essay-writing services for financial gain to students. Photo: Martin-DM
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Commercial essay-writing services for students, or "essay mills", are set to be banned in England under plans to protect the academic integrity and standards of post-16 education, the UK government said on Tuesday.

It intends to make it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise such services to university and college students for financial gain.

Making essay mills illegal under new legislation will help to protect students from falling prey to the "deceptive marketing techniques of contract cheating services", the Department for Education said.

"Essay mills are completely unethical and profit by undermining the hard work most students do," said UK Skills Minister Alex Burghart.

"We are taking steps to ban these cheating services."

The move was welcomed by Universities UK which said it had "repeatedly called for essay-writing services to be made illegal".

"While the use of essay mills by students is rare, all universities have codes of conduct that include severe penalties for students found to be submitting work that is not their own," it said.

"Universities have become increasingly experienced at dealing with such issues and are engaging with students from day one to underline the implications of cheating and how it can be avoided."

Banning essay mills is one of several measures being introduced to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which aims to transform further and technical education.

Careers education in schools will be strengthened to ensure all pupils have opportunities to learn about all technical education options available to them, including apprenticeships, T-levels and traineeships.

The law will also be changed to give equality to technical education in careers advice in schools, so all pupils understand the wide range of routes and training available to them, not just academic options.

Other amendments to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which enters its report stage in the House of Lords on October 12, include allowing more faith school providers to open post-16 academies with a religious character.

Updated: October 05, 2021, 8:07 PM