Essays for sale:

time for legal regulation?

Martin Jones


The expansion of essay writing services of the kind offered, for example, by coursework4you 1 and Academic Answers Ltd2 has attracted the ire of the academic community. The detection of such essays submitted by students has presented a real challenge to the sector. The fact that the Turnitin software relies upon comparisons to websites and other essays submitted to its database makes the routine detection of bespoke essays effectively beyond its reach. It is unclear the extent to which such essays are actually submitted by students but press reports suggest that for those operating these services, it is a lucrative business 3 .

In some circumstances, the severity of student academic misconduct may take it beyond an issue of purely institutional regulation. Following incidents at The University of York in 2007, four individuals were charged and subsequently pleaded guilty to fraud offences as a result of impersonating students in exams. 4 It could be argued that any student who purchases and submits a custom written essay for assessment falls into a similar category.

This paper examines the possibilities for wider legal regulation of the bespoke essay writing services market and the extent to which this is desirable. Analysis will focus on the applicability of current legal provisions such as the Fraud Act 2006, areas for potential reform and the possible engagement of the essay providers in this process.





This paper was submitted to the International Integrity & Plagiarism Conference which ran between 2004-2014. The paper was peer reviewed by an independent editorial board and features in the conference proceedings.