Abstract: Recent Australian media scandals suggest that university students are increasingly outsourcing their assessments to third parties – a behaviour known as ‘contract cheating’. This paper reports on findings from a large survey of students from eight Australian universities (n = 14,086) which sought to explore students’ experiences with and attitudes towards contract cheating, and the contextual factors that may influence this behaviour. A spectrum of seven outsourcing behaviours were investigated, and three significant variables were found to be associated with contract cheating: dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment, a perception that there are ‘lots of opportunities to cheat’, and speaking a Language Other than English (LOTE) at home. To minimise contract cheating, our evidence suggests that universities need to support the development of teaching and learning environments which nurture strong student–teacher relationships, reduce opportunities to cheat through curriculum and assessment design, and address the well-recognised language and learning needs of LOTE students.
Abstract: If media reports are to be believed, Australian universities are facing a significant and growing problem of students outsourcing their assessment to third parties, a behaviour commonly known as ‘contract cheating’. Teaching staff are integral to preventing and managing this emerging form of cheating, yet there has been little evidence-based research to inform changes to their practice. This paper reports on the findings of a large-scale survey of teaching staff in Australian universities on the topic of contract cheating. It investigated staff experiences with and attitudes towards student cheating, and their views on the individual, contextual and organisational factors that inhibit or support efforts to minimise it. Findings indicate that contract cheating could be addressed by improving key aspects of the teaching and learning environment, including the relationships between students and staff. Such improvements are likely to minimise cheating, and also improve detection when cheating occurs.
Nationwide Workshops (April – May 2018)
Between April and May 2018, the project team held a series of interactive staff workshops at the University of South Australia, the University of Western Australia, Victoria University, UNSW, and Griffith University. Staff from all universities located in each state were invited to attend. The purpose of the workshops were to disseminate the most recent findings from the project, and to develop and refine educational resources for staff on contract cheating and assessment design.
VIDEOS: Interactive staff workshop on contract cheating (Associate Professor Tracey Bretag, Victoria University, 18 April 2018)
Acknowledgement: The project team would like to thank Igor Asmaryan and Marianne Samulis, from Victoria University, for arranging this recording.
Filmed Conferences and Symposia Presentations
Contract cheating in Australian higher education: Implications for teaching and learning: Associate Professor Tracey Bretag spoke at the Studiosity Symposium 2018, 9-10 August, 2018, The University of Sydney.
Evidenced-Based Responses to Contract Cheating: Associate Professor Tracey Bretag spoke at the third international Plagiarism Across Europe and Beyond Conference, 24-26 May 2017, in Brno, Czech Republic.
VIDEO: Associate Professor Tracey Bretag
Media & Press
Counterpoint (ABC Radio National, 28 May 2018). Project Co-leader Associate Professor Tracey Bretag speaks about survey findings and the rise of contract cheating at universities.
Today Tonight (Adelaide, 11 October 2017). Project Co-leader Dr Rowena Harper discusses contract cheating and survey findings.
News.com.au (2017, April, 19), Six percent of uni students cheat on their studies, research shows.
Hare, J. (2017, April 19), Research pinpoints cheating levels among university students, The Australian.
Studiosity blog post (2018, August 21), Contract cheating in Australian higher education: Implications for teaching and learning.
Following further analysis of staff and student survey data, additional findings have been reported in another project infographic. Please see below for the 2018 infographic.
Download: 2018 Infographic
On 13 April, 2017, the project team held a symposium at the University of South Australia to disseminate preliminary findings from the project’s survey of students and staff. Sixty invited guests were in attendance, representing higher education institutions from NSW, SA, VIC, ACT, WA, and Tasmania. Guests were provided with an infographic outlining the early findings from the project team’s ongoing analysis of the survey data. Please see below for the 2017 infographic.
Download: 2017 Infographic
Project Symposium (UniSA 13 April, 2017)
The Contract Cheating and Assessment Design project team shared findings from the recently concluded student and staff nationwide survey of contract cheating, with invited guests from institutions and organisations around Australia.
VIDEO: Introduction to the Project (Associate Professor Tracey Bretag and Dr Rowena Harper)
VIDEO: Key findings from the university student survey (Associate Professor Tracey Bretag)
VIDEO: Key findings from the university staff survey (Dr Rowena Harper)
VIDEO: Key findings from Non-University Higher Education Providers survey (Ms. Sonia Saddiqui)
VIDEO: Academic Integrity Breach Reports: Does authentic assessment solve contract cheating? (Ms. Karen van Haringen and Ms. Pearl Rozenberg)
VIDEO: Analysis of contract cheating procurement data (Associate Professor Cath Ellis)
VIDEO: Contract cheating and the law (Professor Phil Newton)
VIDEO Project Symposium conclusion (Professor Tracey Bretag and Dr Rowena Harper)
Acknowledgement: The project team would like to acknowledge and thank our colleague Dr. Saadia Mahmud for her assistance with analysing the student and staff survey data.