Sydney universities caught up in a cheating scandal that students using essay writing services

Several Sydney universities caught up in a cheating scandal that includes students using essay writing services say they are responding and cracking down on the new cheating method.

The vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, said he would personally head a taskforce to investigate academic misconduct in the wake of new methods of cheating.

The assessment cheating racket involves students paying the MyMaster company to ghost write assignments and sit online tests.

Students from 16 different universities have been identified as using the service.

The ABC understands the university will now look at how to overhaul the ways students are assessed, to minimise the opportunity for students to cheat and abuse the system.

One option being considered is having more “in-class exams” to make a comparison with the work students submit in online assessments.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) said so far, 19 students had been identified as involved in the cheating scandal.

A spokeswoman said some of the cases are at the active investigation stage and others are being decided on or are under appeal.

She said it was likely the matters would be finalised by mid-June at the latest.

UNSW is the only university involved that would not expel a student if they were found to have been involved. The maximum penalty is an 18-month-long suspension.

Forty-three current and recently graduated Macquarie University students have been referred to the university’s disciplinary committee, with hearings to be held over the next few weeks.

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor Professor John Simons said the university took matters of academic misconduct extremely seriously.

“We will leave no stone unturned in establishing whether or not cheating has occurred,” he said.

The University of Newcastle has so far penalised 31 students over the cheating scandal.

It said other students who graduated last year but were yet to respond to cheating allegations risked having their degrees revoked.

The University of Technology in Sydney said 15 students had been identified at cheats so far, with about 60 others still under investigation.

A spokesman said the potential penalties ranged from a minimum of a zero mark for the subject to permanent exclusion from the university.

“The most common penalty would be suspension from the university for a semester, which would be noted on the student’s academic record,” he said.

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