The cost of cheating at university

Aug 09, 2013

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Two snippets from the Times Higher Education on August 1st stuck in my mind. In the first, there is an account of some work published by Ron Johnston from the University of Bristol (paper in the Political Quarterly). With student fees of £9000 per year, and living costs leading to a notional 50K debt, a student with a starting salary of 25K might repay just under 160K over 30 years. If the starting salary is higher, the the amount is 115K over 19 years. Whilst at university, loans are at 3% above inflation, when you earn under 21K they grow at inflation only, and above this, the interest grows to a maximum of 3% at 41K (3% plus inflation). Big figures.
The second article is, for reasons that are obvious, anonymous. The author is a freelance ghostwriter, writing essays for students. As he points out, now that software can reveal what proportion of text has been lifted from other sources, a bespoke personalised essay (rather than a generic one) is the norm. Prerequisites for employment he says are having graduated from Oxbridge or a Russell group University. He writes— and this is where the first snippet is relevant:”I operate on the assumption that the student I’m working for will have little or no personal interaction with academic staff. This means that there is only a small likelihood that the lecturer who sets and marks the questions will be familiar with the student’s style of writing.”

Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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