No ‘Munnabhai’ at Australian universities, Federal government blocks 40 cheating websites

These blocked illegal academic cheating websites had traffic of about 450,000 times a month.

The Australian government has blocked access to 40 of the most visited academic cheating websites which had traffic of about 450,000 times a month.

Such cheating websites are used to sell students essays, help in online assessments, and accept payment for someone else to sit exams on a student’s behalf. 

Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education (Image source: alp.org.au)

In a statement, Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education, said that

“For the first time, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has used new protocols developed with members of the Communications Alliance to prevent access to the websites. The protocols streamline the process for blocking illegal academic cheating websites, better enabling TEQSA to enforce Australia’s anti-commercial academic cheating laws.”

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An earlier news report has stated that International students are over-represented in such cheating statistics as most focus on working and making ends meet in Australia.

Most Australian universities, in the COVID-19 and post-COVID scenario, moved to online learning and assessments. This gave rise to a new billion-dollar industry dedicated to helping students cheat. These company advertise themselves online as study aids. However, a close look and it is clear that they are for-profit companies helping students cheat.

Some Australian universities have started using advanced online anti-cheat software to deter students from academic misconduct. However, these companies create a way around this anti-cheat software.

Dr Ritesh Chugh, Associate Professor at CQ University, Australia (Image supplied)

Dr Ritesh Chugh, an Associate Professor at Central Queensland University, co-authored a research paper on academic integrity last year with colleagues from his university. The authors observed:

“The increased incidences of academic misconduct in universities are compromising the reputation of higher education in Australia and increasing the work of academics responsible for the delivery of quality learning outcomes to students.”

Image Source: @CANVA

Dr Chugh adds that their research found that participants were genuinely interested in furthering their understanding of academic integrity issues. He observes that blocking such websites is a good step in the right direction but is not a complete solution. He says using their suggested measures universities could curb this behaviour proactively:

“We recommended that universities increase penalties for academic misconduct, improve management response to the way academic misconduct infractions are handled, encourage international students to appreciate the intrinsic value of their education and redesign assessments to mitigate academic dishonesty attempts.”

Image Source: @CANVA

Dr Chugh says that a blend of actions from regulatory agencies and educational institutions is required to curb this menace.

Minister Clare calls such websites criminal in their operation. He observes:

“Illegal cheating services threaten academic integrity and expose students to criminals, who often attempt to blackmail students into paying large sums of money.”

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He further adds:

“Blocking these websites will seriously disrupt the operations of the criminals behind them.”

Image Source: @CANVA

Two years ago, the Australian federal government announced its solution to online cheating. The government asked Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to develop protocols with participating internet service providers (ISPs). TEQSA says that apart from blocking it has a range of resources to help both domestic and international students. It further encourages both the students and staff at Australian universities to report all suspected cheating services for investigation.