29 July 2006

Crossing a moral boundary

Browsing the Guardian this morning, I started reading this interesting article about plagiarism by students. Apparently, writing students' essays for them is a multi-million pound business. The statistics are quite shocking: one in six university students cheats in some manner; the number of companies supplying tailor-made essays is growing; one firm made £1.6 million last year alone.

Reading on, I discovered that the freelance writers employed by this firm can earn up to £1,000 a week writing essays for students who really ought to be doing it themselves.

For a split second, I was tempted - a grand a week!

But I worked hard for my English degree - it took me 4 years of hard graft, including a year out due to illness. There was no internet back then - I did all my own research, made my own drafts, then typed each dissertation up painstakingly on the old, portable typewriter that had originally belonged to my father. I've lost count of the amount of Tippex I used to get through, or whatever it's called these days (does it even still exist?).

Paying others to write your essays for you is stooping very low. It devalues your degree. But being paid to do it is even worse. Have these writers no sense of shame? I am appalled - granted, it's a tough market out there for us professional writers but there is plenty of work available if you know where to look for it.

Having struggled to graduate (I left school at 16, went straight into journalism, had to sit a mature entrance exam at 23, and graduated aged 28), I am proud of my BA Ord. in English and Creative Arts. It was all my own work.

So no matter how tempted I am at the thought of an easy K a week, that's a road I won't be going down.

The beloved P is looking over my shoulder as I blog - he just made a very pointed remark - it will be harder than ever for the less well off in our society to get a degree. If you're rich, you can just buy your way into a 1st-class honours in the subject of your choice.

Who says there is no longer a class divide in this country?


Anonymous said...

I would agree there's probably a certain level of cheating out there getting 2:1's where a 2:2 might be more deserved, but I doubt that it would be possible to buy a first in this way.

You have to turn in a fairly consistent level of first class material to get awarded a first - including exams in most degrees.

Even if you bought your essays up to first class standard through the course, you'd still have to sit exams and turn in first class material from those - unlikely, if you've not actually been doing the work yourself all along!

Unknown said...

Yes, I'm sure you're right. My remark about buying a First was a bit tongue in cheek, as they are pretty hard to obtain. But my point was that anyone who buys essays is devaluing their degree and it's wrong to be able to buy higher marks. It discriminates against the those who are going to have to put the graft in because they don't have the wealth to purchase their degree with ease.

Mind you, anyone that buys higher marks will get found out soon enough in the world of work, where it will become obvious that their abilities do not match that claimed on their degree certificate!