The Morrison Government is striking a blow with the enforcement of the world’s strongest laws to combat commercial academic cheating services.
The Government is providing $3.9 million per year to support the Higher Education Integrity Unit, which is part of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), to enforce these laws and to protect against other integrity risks to the sector.
Acting Minister for Education and Youth Stuart Robert said the measure was already delivering results with computer searches for cheating services dropping by almost a quarter after the integrity unit began operations.
‘With TEQSA data showing that searches for cheating services in Australia dropped by 23.5 per cent during the last half of 2021, it is clear the Morrison Government’s laws are disrupting the cheats,’ Minister Robert said.
‘The laws penalise those who provide or promote cheating services with up to two years in prison and/or fines of up to $110,000, where the cheating service or advertising is for a commercial purpose. The laws also give us the power to block access to cheating websites.’
However, Mr Robert said cheating services continue to pose an integrity risk for the sector, with TEQSA zoning in on artificial intelligence, file-sharing and other tools used by professional rackets.
‘While the Government’s tough stance on industrial-scale academic cheating is bringing results, higher education providers and students must remain vigilant in the face of this evolving risk,’ Minister Robert said.
‘I encourage providers to continue working with TEQSA to strengthen students’ understanding of why cheating is never the right answer.’
TEQSA Chief Commissioner Professor Peter Coaldrake said cheating services were targeting students through social media platforms and online marketplaces, and the regulator was working with companies including Meta (owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), LinkedIn and Gumtree to remove posts promoting cheating services.
‘While we are pleased to have these companies working with us and taking action to remove 300 posts so far, I know these posts and accounts represent just the tip of the iceberg – and our work continues to disrupt cheating service operators,’ Professor Coaldrake said.
TEQSA has identified about 300 websites suspected of offering cheating services that are specifically targeted at students studying at Australian higher education institutions.
TEQSA was successful in the Federal Court late last year in getting two of these sites blocked under the legislation. The agency is now close to finalising investigations into 130 other sites with a view to getting them blocked in coming months.
The agency has also been working in intelligence-gathering with similar international bodies.
Earlier this month, TEQSA launched translated anti-cheating resources in Mandarin, Hindi, Portuguese and Malay at teqsa.gov.au/cheating.
These translated resources will support more students, including returning international students, to understand the real risks that cheating services pose, how to report illegal services, and the importance of upholding academic integrity.
Students and institutions can report suspected cheating services to TEQSA for investigation via the online form on at teqsa.gov.au/cheating.