Contract cheating and assessment design: exploring the relationship (2019)

Abstract: This paper reports on findings from a large Australian research project that explored the relationship between contract cheating and assessment design. Using survey responses from 14,086 students and 1147 educators at eight universities, a multivariate analysis examined the influence of a range of factors on the likelihood that different assessment types would prompt considerations of contract cheating in students. Perceptions of likelihood were highest among students who speak a language other than English at home. Perceptions of likelihood were also higher among students who reported there to be lots of opportunities to cheat, and amongst students who were dissatisfied with the teaching and learning environment. Perceptions of likelihood for certain assessment types were also higher in commerce and engineering than in any other discipline. Overall, four assessment types were perceived by students to be the least likely to be outsourced, however these are also the least likely to be set by educators. The analysis indicates that educators are more likely to use these assessment tasks when they report positively on organisational support for teaching and learning

Contract cheating in Australian higher education: a comparison of non-university higher education providers and universities (2019)

Abstract: This article reports on one aspect of a nationally funded research project on contract cheating in Australian higher education. The project explored students’ and educators’ experiences of contract cheating, and the contextual factors that may influence it. This article reports the key findings from non-university higher education providers (NUHEPs). It compares survey responses from 961 students and 91 educators at four NUHEPs with previously reported findings from eight universities (14,086 students and 1,147 staff). NUHEP and university students report engaging in contract cheating in similar ways. However, while NUHEP educators spend more time teaching academic literacies and discussing contract cheating, NUHEP students are 12 times more likely than university students to report use of a professional academic writing service. Both NUHEP and university educators require systematic professional development regarding the relationship between the teaching and learning environment and students’ contract cheating behaviour. NUHEPs need to be cognisant of students’ vulnerability to commercial contract cheating services, and ensure they have access to timely academic and social support

Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university students (2018)

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.

Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university staff (2018)

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)

Griffith Uni CC workshop 16 May 2018
Participants engaging in group discussions during one of the five contract cheating and assessment design workshops held across Australia in 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.


Download the slides for this presentation. Read the Studiosity blog post about this presentation.

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.TT adelaide (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.

Project Infographics

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.