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New laws will prosecute firms that write essays for third level students

The proposed legislation will make it an offence to provide written-to-order essays, which give students an advantage over others by essentially participating in plagiarism.

Image: Sam Boal/Rolling News

FIRMS THAT OFFER to write essays for third-level students in return for a fee are set to face prosecution under new laws.

Details of new legislation to strengthen the authority of the higher and further education regulator, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), drafted by Minister for Education Richard Bruton, will be launched today.

The proposed legislation will make it an offence to provide written-to-order essays, which give students an advantage over others by essentially participating in plagiarism.

Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Minister Bruton said that it is important that if “new abuses are coming in where essay mills are overcoming the software protection that we know is there to prevent plagiarism, we need to make sure that doesn’t take hold in our system.”

New Zealand is currently the only country in the world to have introduced legislation to make it illegal to provide a third-party academic cheating system.

On one such website, the list of colleges and courses the company caters to are listed. Students can submit a form outliving their details and information about the essay they wish to be written.

“We’re moving early to have protection in our system and one of the reasons for that is part of our plan is to grow the international education system in Ireland to be a business of 2.1 million,” Bruton said this morning.

“It’s absolutely crucial if we are to do that that we have a system of strong protection.”

The proposed legislation will also introduce a quality mark for English language schools for international students and will see the introduction of a learner protection fund so “we won’t have the sort of scandal that has been seen in recent years where colleges close, leaving students high and dry”.

The bill will introduce the International Education Mark, awarded by QQI, to ensure people can have confidence that their courses are quality assured.

In relation to preventing students availing of paid-for-essays from international firms, Bruton said that the servers that they are working off can be targeted.

“Clearly it’s not as easy in the IT world to stamp down on but we have to set that standard and we have to take every action possible to protect the integrity of our system.”

Bruton also noted that there are provisions in place for a new national Learner Protection Fund, which will support students to complete their studies if their college closes.

The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill is set to amend the previous act of 2012.

The bill has been issued to the Oireachtas for public discussion on the proposals.

Read: ‘It’s not just getting your foot in the door’: Over 6,000 third-level students don’t make it to 2nd year

More: Questions raised over how schools are chosen for government meals scheme

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