The Telegraph,
£1,700 for a dissertation, but what’s the real cost of plagiarism?

Turnitin was initially used to detect plagiarism.

More recently, the firm appears to have successfully persuaded many universities to give students access to the tool before formal submission. Simple copy-paste plagiarism may therefore have been replaced by more effective paraphrasing and growing numbers of essay-for-hire services.

If this is true, the costs of cheating have raised for both cheats and institutions.

The costs to cheats include the financial cost of the essay and the opportunity cost of the learning forgone. The costs to institutions include higher enforcement costs and the reputation effects when graduates with good degrees are unable to perform in further studies or in the job market at the level expected.

In purely short-run financial terms, cheating looks cheap in three ways.

  • If the fees reported in The Telegraph are correct, £1700 for a dissertation is relatively cheap. Over the 12 weeks of a masters dissertation, a student would only have to work 22 hours per week to gross the cost of buying the dissertation (at the statutory minimum wage).

  • In business and management, for example, a masters degree can be upward of £15000 (and often more than £25000) and the dissertation worth one-third of the degree. Buying a dissertation therefore might add less than 10% to the cost of the degree (assuming accommodation costs need paying whether studying or working).

  • Because dissertations require significant amounts of learning but very little assessment, essay mill writers can create dissertations for much less effort than students (using templates of common topics, probably in less than a week).

The question then becomes how to change the relative costs of using an essay mill service.

Making more assessment examination based is one alternative, but then takes out of the equation the learning that happens during longer form research and writing.

Creating more unusual questions, that require essay mill writers more effort to address ought to increase the financial costs of buying an essay. However, the demand for essay mill output might be price inelastic for students that can afford high fees.

Closer supervision and smaller tutor groups will increase students’ learning and confidence and make commissioned essays more obvious (but no easier to prove to academic offences committees).

Making students aware of the long-run costs of not learning might help. This requires educators to spend more time making the relevance of the tasks they set more obvious.

However the relative cost issue is addressed, the distinction between an education (and its value) and the certificate of completion (and its long-term irrelevance) ought to be much stronger.

Perhaps we could all start by not talking about getting a ‘good degree’ and instead talk about getting a good education, being able to understand and solve complex problems, etc.

Read the full article on The Telegraph website.

The Guardian,
Margaret Hodge not confident public funds safe in private colleges scheme

“… the total amount of public money paid out to the colleges and students increased from about £50m to £675m a year. The Student Loans Company, a government quango, paid out £1.27bn in financial support for students at alternative providers during the four-year period.”

£675m to private colleges and their students — more than one-third of HEFCE’s teaching budget.

The leak of public education money to private, for-profit providers is not a drip. It is a flood.

Read the full article on The Guardian website.

See also:HEFCE Budget, HEFCE Budget
Huffington Post,
Labour’s Tuition Fee Pledge Shows Just How Bleak Politics Has Become

Bradley Allsop:

“The more honest Labourites will admit that £6,000 is still too much, but we embrace Labour because at least they’re ‘taking a step in the right direction’. Codswallop. If this were the latest in a long line of announcements that indicate a small but significant u-turn back towards its socialist roots, then the point might be valid. Back in the real world, however, what we see is a half-baked measure that comes after Ukip-like immigration rhetoric, Tory-like welfare rhetoric, and polling neck and neck with the Greens amongst 18-24 year olds. This move by Labour is not part of some broader moral renewal- it’s a half-arsed attempt at fooling the young back into the fold.”

If nothing else, Labour’s announcements have brought higher education funding closer to the forefront of election debate. It is an important debate.

The decision between the deficit now (from lowering fees) or a deferred deficit from some lower level of loan write-downs needs to taken in the context of the psychological and financial costs for graduates that do less well and the statement that free or lower cost higher education makes about the importance of education in an advanced economy.

Labour’s proposal to reduce pension tax benefits for the wealthy is not unreasonable. A graduate levy or tax would also not be unreasonable. Both approaches take a better stab at identifying graduates who have made the most private gains from higher education, the former less accurately than the latter.  

Read the full article on Huffington Post website.

See also:Observer (editorial), Liam Byrne (Times Higher Education), Guardian (on Liberal Democrat's response)
Related tweets:@jameschanuk
The Guardian,
Students at private college told to repay grants

The government changes its mind about the eligibility of a private college, demands the college returns the fees it paid on behalf of students and demands the students repay the maintenance loans. If the college misrepresented itself, the first half is fair enough. The second half should never happen.

“The Student Loans Company (SLC) has demanded that thousands of pounds of maintenance grants awarded two years ago to students at the ICE Academy, a private independent college with campuses across the UK, be recovered despite officials recognising they were victims of a bureaucratic fiasco. SLC has already sent 80 cases to debt collectors.”


Read the full article on The Guardian website.