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Beating the cheating services – new law to help preserve academic integrity in Higher Ed

Academic integrity is a core part of university life and reflects fundamental values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. All members of the university community must uphold these values in teaching, learning and research. This includes refraining from using academic cheating services which have the effect of undermining honesty and fairness in academic outcomes.

New legislation, which commenced on 4 September 2020, reinforces the idea that cheating is unethical by making commercial cheating services illegal.

The intention of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Act 2020 is to protect the values and integrity of the Australian higher education system by:

  • Creating new offences for anyone providing or advertising academic cheating services
  • Extending TEQSA’s authority to intervene, investigate and shut-down academic cheating services (operating either within Australia or offshore).

New penalties apply to providers of cheating services

An “academic cheating service means providing work to, or undertaking work for, students, in circumstances where the work:

  1. Is, or forms a substantial part of, an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake; or
  2. Could reasonably be regarded as being, or forming a substantial part of, an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake.

It is now a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise an academic cheating service on a commercial basis. Penalties up to 2 years’ imprisonment and fines of up to $100k may apply to providers of academic cheating services who offer to write a substantial part of an assignment or sit an exam on a fee for service basis.

Civil financial penalties may apply where an academic cheating service is supplied without remuneration or benefit. This could include co-ordinated arrangements between students. Potential fines up to $100k are intended to deter unpaid cheating assistance.

The new law does not condone but does not penalise informal assistance provided by family members or friends. Nor does it seek to directly penalise students who might be tempted to use a cheating service. In regulating this type of activity, however, TEQSA may provide universities with information about identified academic cheating services and their users. Students found to be cheating will be subject to the procedures set out in the University’s Academic Integrity policy.

TEQSA’s expanded role

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency regulates and assures the quality of Australia’s higher education sector. TEQSA’s role and regulatory powers have been broadened to include:

  • Monitoring and investigating alleged offenders
  • Referring any breaches of the law to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Raising awareness of cheating websites by publishing information
  • Seeking an injunction from the Federal Court to force internet service providers to block websites advertising cheating services.

Further information

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