A new study has revealed a surge in the number of students paying someone else to write their university essays.
As many as one in seven recent graduates, representing 31 million people, may have cheated by using “essay mills” during the last four years.
A study by Swansea University reviewed questionnaires dating back to 1978 where students were asked if they had ever paid for someone else to complete their work.
The findings – covering 54,514 participants – showed a 15.7% rise in the number of students who admitted cheating between 2014 and 2018.
The study also noted that cheating at universities was on the increase worldwide.
Essay mills are currently legal in the UK despite being outlawed elsewhere, and an active petition is calling for the Government to ban their use.
They are difficult to identify as the essays are tailored for individual subjects and appear original.
Professor Phil Newton, from Swansea University, said the UK is at risk becoming a haven for those selling essays to students.
He said: “The UK risks becoming a country where essay mills find it easy to do business.
“These findings underscore the need for legislation to tackle essay mills, alongside improvements in the way students are assessed and awareness-raising of the fundamentals of academic integrity.
“We need to utilise assessment methods that promote learning and at the same time reduce the likelihood that contract cheating can happen”.