While for most writing an essay becomes a thing of the past soon after one sets foot out of universities and steps into the world of work, for some the dissertation is just the beginning.
This is so because the very thing students spend three or four years paying to do at university – coursework, is now becoming increasingly easy to make money from.
In this industry which is thriving essentially entails a third party writer penning down tailor-made pieces of work for paying students. And help being offered to struggling undergraduates with their work in return for cash is being offered by scores of companies which is evident with the briefest of online searches.
While financially, there are fewer concerns than ever, ethically, there have long been doubts over the practice.
While the boss of one its rivals, Essay Writer, believes the industry is now worth around £100m, All Answers Ltd, one of the biggest players in the essay-writing business, has grown 10pc year on year, it said. Both companies have experienced a continued increase in demand and both have been in existence since 2003.
The use of essay writing services have been coined “contract cheating” to describe the practice of paying for work online and submitting it as your own by Dr Thomas Lancaster, a lecturer at Coventry University, who has been investigating the issue for a decade.
“It is a booming business. There are so many sites available and the number is growing all the time. And it is not just online sites – there are all kinds of offline mechanisms as well, such as adverts around universities, in newsagents’ windows or on noticeboards. They must be advertising, getting work in, having enough writers, paying them and still making a profit – so there is a lot of money going around in this chain,” he says.
All Answers now have an office in Arnold, Nottingham, and around 50 full-time members of staff while in 2008 it comprised of just seven people working from a single house.
“We have 20 people in quality control who sit down and read essays all day. These are all graduates and highly-qualified individuals who make sure the work we send out is exactly what it needs to be,” says Daniel Dennehy, customer experience manager at All Answers.
The simple business model entails that each of the established companies have a pool of writers who each have specialist areas and who takes a cut of the fee after work is allotted to them and after they write the essay that a customer wants to be written.
For an essay of “undergraduate 2:1” standard All Answers charges £155 and £357 for an “undergraduate upper 1st” piece of work. The company which had over 16,000 customers last year gives 42 percent of their turnover to their researchers.
According to general manager David Burton of All Answers’ rival company Essay Writer, the charge is £350 but can rise as high as £10,000 or £15,000.
“It is an expensive service,” he says. However as long as there is demand, the business will remain profitable, he adds.
But what is the secret behind rising demands?
The rise in international students is a key factor. There were 436,585 international students in the UK alone in 2014/15, up from 318,000 in 2004/5 and 164,000 in 94/95, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency of UK.
Burton says that students who have come from abroad comprise between 60 and 70 percent of all of Essay Writer’s customers.
“You get a lot of students coming over and I would say they are substandard compared to the local students. Often they are coming to a university and have not got a clue about the style or how the lectures work, and they can’t follow it because English is their second language. When they go off to write their essays, they do not quite understand,” he says.
International students “are very highly academic but trying to portray something in a different language can at times be very difficult,” says Dennehy.
“They might not understand what is being requested of them, so they come to us and get an expert to produce an example answer which is exactly how it should be, so they can read it, understand the theory and the models that are being used,” he adds.
While both All Answers and Essay Writer stress that the essays they provide to customers are for guidance and should in no circumstances be passed off as the student’s own work, these businesses have been accused of facilitating cheating for long.
Dennehy says: “One factor we are seeing is the high rise in tutor fees. Students want to have the best possible chance of graduating with a good degree. They don’t want to be debt-ridden and paying back their student loan for the next 25 years. They want to take full advantage of every opportunity out there.”
(Adapted from The Telegraph)