LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Cheating students are using outsourcing Web sites where bidders compete to write their coursework for them, researchers have found.
They have labelled the new twist on Internet plagiarism contract cheating and warn it could jeopardise the value of university degrees.
"What we have identified is a new type of cheating where students put their coursework out to tender and suppliers bid to complete the work," said Dr Thomas Lancaster of the University of Central England in Birmingham.
Offenders use legitimate outsourcing Web sites, normally used by businesses offering freelance project work to skilled professionals, and submit work which has been written to order for them.
Lancaster and Principal Lecturer Robert Clarke looked at one particular software solutions outsourcing site and found that one in 10 of all bid requests were from students.
"This type of cheating is cost effective for students, because many of the suppliers are internationally based and can complete the set assignments for a few dollars a time," Lancaster told Reuters.
The most he has seen a student pay for coursework is $50 and the least $5.
"The ballpark figure is roughly $20, which is not a great deal of money for such a task," said Lancaster.
The analysis of the site showed that most students had previously requested between two and seven pieces of work.
Lancaster and Clarke were able to trace contract cheating bids to universities in America, Canada and Australia as well as within the UK, where they identified bids originating from 46 different higher education colleges.
"There is a serious concern that, unlike plagiarism, academic institutions are not yet fully aware of the potential prevalence of contract cheating and the measures that can be taken to avoid it," said Lancaster.
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