Written by Carol Floyd, Mathew Hillier and Brenda Lee

The year 2020 hasn’t been easy for anyone in universities. The rapid move to online learning has left many staff and students tackling a new paradigm for assessment and the added stress this brings with it. Many of us worry that, as a result of circumstances, students are increasingly vulnerable to contract cheating companies.

The factors that can lead to cheating include lack of certainty about referencing and citing conventions, lack of confidence in completing assessments, opportunities to cheat and high levels of stress or pressure (Bretag et al, 2019; Devlin & Gray, 2007; Hattingh, Buitendag & Lall, 2020; INQAAHE, 2020). Covid 19 has only exacerbated the situation.

Academic integrity is multi-facetted space with multiple strategies needed to encourage and maintain it (as explained in this TEQSA Good Practice Note), but raising awareness is a good starting point. Three things you can do foster an environment of integrity are:

  1. Talk to your students about the importance of academic integrity and the risks of cheating. These include

For further information, see the recently updated and expanded section ‘Why can’t someone else write my assignment for me?’ in the Academic Integrity Module (AIM).

  1. Inform your students about how to avoid breaches. This includes an awareness of
    • what constitutes a breach in the context of your unit (i.e. be clear as to what is and is not permitted for each assessment.),
    • acting with academic integrity: students can complete the AIM module in iLearn.

You can also use Turnitin to foster academic integrity: see the previous Teche article on this subject here.

  1. Make sure your students know about the help available
    • consultations with you (include when and how students can contact you),
    • help from a Librarian with finding sources by using the chat button on any Library webpage,
    • advice on their draft assignments in person or by written feedback, and help with all academic skills and assignments online: details at  Getting help with your assignment,
    • counselling, medical and accessibility help at Wellbeing.

As the fifth International Day of Action against Contract Cheating takes place soon on 21 October, this is a good time to focus on academic honesty. Taking this educative approach in creating more awareness about academic integrity can help everyone uphold Macquarie University’s values of honesty, trust, support, respect and responsibility.


Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., . . . van Haeringen, K. (2019). Contract cheating: a survey of Australian university students. Studies in Higher Education, 44(11), 1837-1856. doi:10.1080/03075079.2018.1462788.

Devlin, M., & Gray, K. (2007). In their own words: a qualitative study of the reasons Australian university students plagiarize. Higher Education Research & Development, 26(2), 181-198. doi:10.1080/07294360701310805

Hattingh, F. G., Buitendag, A. A., & Lall, M. (2020). Systematic Literature Review to Identify and Rank the Most Common Reasons for Plagiarism. Paper presented at the InSITE 2020: Informing Science+ IT Education Conferences: Online.

International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE). (2020). Toolkit to support quality assurance agencies to address academic integrity and contract cheating [pdf]. Retrieved from https://www.teqsa.gov.au/latest-news/publications/toolkit-support-quality-assurance-agencies-address-academic-integrity?s=09

Pitt, P., Dullaghan, K., & Sutherland-Smith, W. (2020). ‘Mess, stress and trauma’: students’ experiences of formal contract cheating processes. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-14. doi:10.1080/02602938.2020.1787332

Sutherland-Smith, W., & Dullaghan, K. (2019). You don’t always get what you pay for: User experiences of engaging with contract cheating sites. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-15. doi:10.1080/02602938.2019.1576028

Posted by L&T Development

The Learning and Teaching Staff Development team works with staff across the University to ensure they are supported to facilitate quality learning for students. This includes offering professional development, contributing to curriculum and assessment design, recognising and rewarding good practice, supporting peer review of teaching, and leading scholarly reflection. Email professional.learning@mq.edu.au with questions or requests.


  1. […] on course concepts and set readings, that scaffolded students’ reading, writing, academic integrity, and study […]


  2. […] You might also find helpful Three ways to enhance academic integrity in your unit. […]


  3. […] Academic integrity advice for Macquarie University staff and ways to enhance academic integrity awareness. […]


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *