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Tempted to cheat? Here’s why you should think again…

8 December 2021

Paying someone to write an essay can seem tempting, but the consequences are not. ‘Contract cheating’ can have a long-lasting, negative impact on your academic and professional career.

A student wearing a facemask sits at a desk on their laptop

“Need support with your essay? Short on time and struggling with deadlines? We can help.”  

This offer of support lands in your inbox and it takes you a minute to realise this isn’t another ‘top tips’ message from UCL. You are stuck on an assignment and you do feel like time is running out. It’s easy to understand why you’d read on.   

These marketing messages will sound familiar to many. Essay mills and essay banks target university students in the middle of assessments, when stress levels are at their highest.  

But students are being warned to ignore contact by any individual and organisation offering to do assignments for you. It may sound dramatic, but taking up these offers could affect you long into the future. 

What are essay mills?  

Essay mills write custom essays or assignments for a student, in exchange for a fee. They will tailor the essay to the assignment brief, word count and deadline.  

Essay banks are similar but less tailored services that offer a list of pre-written essays to choose from.  

These businesses may try to market these essays as ‘templates’ that you can use to generate ideas or tailor to your own needs.  

What’s the harm?  

Essay mills sound relatively harmless – after all, you’re just getting some outside help to relieve the pressure, right? – but using these services can have serious and lasting consequences:  

  • Commissioning a third party to do a piece of assessment for you, with the intention of submitting it as if it were your own work’ is treated by UCL as ‘contract cheating’. This is a specific type of academic misconduct which can be investigated and penalised as a breach of UCL’s assessment regulations, the outcome of which may be expulsion. Find out more in Section 9: Student Academic Misconduct Procedure

  • Assessment at UCL is designed to actually help you learn and progress. If you don’t do the work yourself, you’ll graduate with knowledge gaps. It won’t take long for these to become obvious when you are expected to apply this knowledge in future, putting any future job at risk. 

  • At UCL, there is a shared understanding that you are here to learn and to contribute positively to that academic community you have joined. By paying someone else to do your work, you’d be letting down your fellow students by buying an unfair advantage and undermining the hard work they have put in to achieve a quality degree.  

  • It may seem like an easy or quick solution now, but paying an assignment-writing service could come back to bite you. These cheaters know who you are - there have been instances where the third party has threatened to expose the student for commissioning work for them, unless they pay more money. This blackmail could have a lasting impact on your reputation and mental health.   

  • Professional bodies, like those for engineering, laws, architecture etc., take a stern view of cheating and can disbar you from practising your chosen profession. Many professions, e.g., medicine, teaching etc., are also subject to ‘fitness to practise’ procedures designed to determine if you have the knowledge, skills and character required for that career. If you haven’t done the groundwork now, you are setting yourself up for failure down the road. 

Get help 

Firstly, make sure to check out the Understanding Academic Integrity online course so you fully understand the different forms of academic misconduct and how you can avoid them.

If you are struggling with an assignment, don’t do it alone! There are lots of ways to get help:   

  • Talk to your personal tutor; they are here to support you and can help you make sense of any university policies, procedures or services you might be able to make use of.  

  • Apply for Extenuating Circumstances: If you’re been affected by unexpected disruptions to your exams or assessments, such as a serious illness or bereavement, UCL has a formal process to quickly let your department know about how they’re affecting your ability to complete an assessment.  

  • The Student Support and Wellbeing team provide a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space, in which you can discuss any issues that may be affecting your ability to study. See how they can help.  

  • Contact the Students’ Union UCL Advice Service – a free, confidential and independent advice and support service that offers help on a wide range of student-related issues.  

  • Need help with your writing? Check out Academic at UCL resources or contact the Language + Writing Support Programme, run by the Students’ Union UCL for international students. 

Complete the Understanding Academic Integrity online course

Further information 

Contact your personal tutor

Contact UCL Student Support and Wellbeing.

Find out about illness and unexpected disruptions to your exam or assessment

Contact the Students’ Union UCL Advice Service.

Read Section 9: Student Academic Misconduct Procedure