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Overseas students 'buying essays'

London, Marach 05, 2008: Essay-writing services are reporting a sharp increase in demand from overseas students at UK universities. says it has had a threefold increase in overseas students buying university essays - representing almost half of its customers.

Universities have accused essay writing firms of fuelling plagiarism.

But a spokesman for says the rise in demand is caused by universities recruiting students with inadequate English language skills.

Overseas fees
"It's another example of universities turning into businesses. They're happy to get the fees from overseas students - but they don't provide enough language support," says Jed Hallam, spokesman for the essay-writing firm.

The rise in students buying essays, he claims, reflects the number of overseas students studying in the UK with "very poor written and verbal skills".

Last year, the online essay firm says it had had 1,683 overseas customers - and already this year, in January and February, it has sold essays to 725 overseas students, three times the corresponding level of last year.

Mr Hallam says overseas students have paid high levels of fees and feel under great pressure to get a good degree - but find themselves struggling with written English.

As such they seek help from essay writing services, he says, with some students buying essays throughout their time in UK universities.

Mr Hallam claims that "one Chinese customer, who is sent an allowance over from his family, spends the majority" on essay services.

There have been cases where students have had difficulty even understanding the question they have been set, he says, let alone being able to produce a degree-level written answer.

The essay-writing firm accuses universities of turning a blind eye to the problem of overseas students with poor written English - with financial pressure overcoming any academic doubts.

And Mr Hallam said that essay-writing companies are to recruit bi-lingual essay writers to serve this growing market.

Essay writing services provide custom-written essays for undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Charges range from 120 for an undergraduate essay written in five days to 3,200 for a 10,000-word postgraduate dissertation.

They say that they provide model answers and study aids, which students should not attempt to copy or submit as their own.

But universities accuse them of selling essays that are used dishonestly by students - and that students caught submitting such essays run the risk of not being awarded degrees.

About one in seven students in UK universities are from overseas - about 330,000 students who bring in an estimated 10bn each year.

Higher education body, Universities UK, rejects the suggestion that universities recruit overseas students on anything other than their "individual academic merits".

And it warns of the damage that can be caused by the mis-use of "online essay mills".

"Plagiarism devalues the efforts of students who work hard to achieve their degrees. It also damages the student who commits plagiarism, as they will not benefit from the research and learning experience," says a spokesman.

"Universities UK members have severe penalties for those students caught cheating."

BBC Education News

Your Comments

"As someone with teaching responsibilities at a prestigious UK university, I have found recently that significant numbers of overseas students (almost all Chinese) have been admitted with language abilities that fall dramatically short of the English test scores submitted with their applications, to the point that they can barely communicate. There is a widely held suspicion that these students have paid someone else to take the test for them. However, I do not have the authority to make these students to re-take their language tests, nor is it likely that they would be removed if they failed (no procedures are in place to deal with this). I spend far too much time trying to teach students who simply cannot understand a word I am saying (even though I speak slowly, using clear, standard English). It is very stressful! This problem seems to be especially severe for one-year taught Masters courses, for some reason. P.S. Of course, we do have many Chinese students who can speak ! English sufficiently well! It is the growing minority who cannot that I am concerned about."
Name: Anna, UK
City, Country: UK

"As a former English teacher and someone who has lived abroad I can understand the concerns of people who have posted here, but would like to clarify for those who are not familiar with English language learning.

1. There are two reasons why a student's spoken/listening is lower than their ability to read/write

(i) they paid someone to take their IELTS exam (that's the English exam they usually have to pass) for them (easily done in certain countries)


(ii) they come from a country where there is a little in the way of speaking practice. I used to teach in China and know for a fact that with honest students there can be an enormous gap between their ability to read/write and speak/listen. You must remember that English is not entirely phonetic, so just because a student knows a word doesn't mean that they can understand it when it is said to them at native speed or pronounce it correctly. IELTS exams are quite predictable so students can have coaching to improve scores in oral exams. They can also take the exam as many times as they like. They only need to get the magic 6, 6.5 or 7 once.

2. IELTS levels are pass marks, but too many students are content with the pass mark. Once they have the 6.5 or 7 they need, they consider that sufficient, rather than aim to improve it.

3. Language support varies from university to university. I think it is unfair to simply label all universities as simply taking the money. Imagine the outcry if they start saying that just having the certificate isn't enough. They need to be able to predict student numbers.

4. Plagiarism rates in some countries are horrific (when I was in China I had plagiarism rates of 80% plus as a minimum) but the idea that British students are somehow blameless is ridiculous.

5. Saying that the interests of British students are seriously comprised by poor English speakers is ridiculous. I have recently completed an MA with over 50% foreign students. Ok, the shy ones can be irritating at times, but it isn't going to seriously affect grades. (ii). "
Name: Si
City, Country: UK

City, Country: PESHAWAR, Pakistan

Email: meme_raim60@YAHOO.COM
City, Country: RAWALPINDI, Pakistan

"As the student of class Xi I would like to say that this model paper make a reality in exams system.student would be work hard to get passing marks. little hard and no more choises are there."
Name: Naqi Abrar
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

"i want english biology paper this is urdu biology paper please anyone send me."
Name: muhammad asad shamim
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

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