Tough penalties proposed for nursing students who cheat

Government proposes new guidance for universities and penalties for students who use essay mills to buy coursework.
Essay mills

Nursing students who use essay mills to buy coursework could soon face tough penalties, under new government proposals.

 There are dozens of online essay mills in operation, offering ‘original’ coursework for sale. Picture: Alamy

Nursing Standard investigation last year found cheating was a growing concern in nursing academia, with dozens of websites offering ‘original’ coursework for sale.

Our investigation revealed there had been 2,752 cases of academic misconduct among nursing students over the previous four academic years, more than three quarters (79%) of which were cases of plagiarism.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has asked for guidance for all universities and information for students to help combat the use of the websites, as well as new penalties for those who do.

‘This form of cheating is unacceptable and every university should have strong policies and sanctions in place to detect and deal with it,’ said Mr Johnson.

Avoiding plagiarism

The Council of Deans of Health (CoDH), which represents nursing, midwifery and allied health faculties, said any plagiarism was a cause for concern, but the ‘vast majority’ of students worked hard and were honest.

The council’s executive director Katerina Kolyva said: ‘Plagiarism is something that universities take very seriously. The higher education sector as a whole has been working hard to tackle this issue through the use of plagiarism detection software and designing assessments to reduce the opportunity for using ‘essay mill’ websites.’

Dr Kolyva said that universities routinely stress to students the seriousness of plagiarism and teach them how to avoid it. ‘Many instances of plagiarism are unintentional and result from a lack of understanding of what constitutes plagiarism,’ she added.

There are more than 100 essay mill websites in operation and charges range from a couple of hundred pounds for a single essay to as much as £6,750 for a PhD dissertation.

‘Major challenge’

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) will now work with Universities UK and the NUS on the new guidance.

QAA director of universities, quality enhancements and standards Ian Kimber said essay mills were ‘a major challenge’ for universities and colleges. ‘Unlike other forms of cheating, the practice is notoriously difficult to detect.’

The new guidance is expected at the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

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