Using online essays to cheat ‘may put patients at risk'
Patient safety could be at risk if nursing students cheat by passing off as their own work essays bought online, a higher education watchdog has warned.
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) director of universities, quality enhancement and standards Ian Kimber said reports of nursing students using so-called essay mill services were ‘particularly concerning’.
‘If people haven’t truly earned their qualifications and yet go on to work in healthcare professions, including nursing, patient safety could be at risk’ Mr Kimber told Nursing Standard.
A Nursing Standard investigation in November revealed plagiarism, or submitting unacknowledged work as your own, accounted for 79% of the 2,752 cases of academic misconduct on UK pre-registration nursing courses over the past four academic years.
The chief operations officer of a company that sold more than 600 essays to nursing students last year has claimed that the essay market is only going to grow.
In an opinion article for Nursing Standard this week, Daniel Dennehy of online essay-writing service UK Essays says some nursing students find the academic burden too heavy.
The company offers writing services for a range of subjects, with nursing its fourth most searched-for topic.
Quotes for services include £135 for a 1,000-word undergraduate nursing essay worth a 2:1 grade, with seven-day delivery, or £270 for an essay at first level.
Mr Dennehy writes: ‘It is, of course, worrying that in a profession where lives are at risk, so many students feel compelled to buy essays.
‘However, I believe this trend is symptomatic of a wider problem, namely that some of our trainee nurses do not feel adequately supported by universities.’
RCN professional lead for education Anne Corrin said the claims were ‘bold’ and not based on qualitative evidence. ‘We would question the assumption that nursing students feel unsupported at university,’ she said.
‘If students are struggling, there are many sources of support for them, in university and from the RCN.’
A QAA investigation into online companies that offer essay-writing services to students, published in the summer, found the problem was global.
Recommendations in the report included a crackdown on advertising, action by universities to help students understand the consequences of buying essays, and possible legal powers ‘to stop essay mills profiting from this
form of cheating’.
Mr Dennehy told Nursing Standard the essays are intended as ‘starting points’ for research and those who buy them agree to the company’s fair use policy, which warns students against submitting the work as their own.
A Department for Education spokesperson said plagiarism was not acceptable and represented ‘a clear threat’ to standards in universities.
‘We are looking closely at the QAA recommendations to see what further steps can be taken to tackle this issue.’
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