Milling hypocrisy

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LETTERS -

For her fea­ture on con­tract cheat­ing (“‘There’s clearly a de­mand; there’s clearly a sup­ply’”, 13 Septem­ber), Anna McKie is to be con­grat­u­lated for not fol­low­ing the trail worn by most of those dis­tressed by the pro­lif­er­a­tion of es­say mills. It is disin­gen­u­ous to lay all blame on lazy stu­dents who de­sire a job rather than an ed­u­ca­tion.

McKie con­sid­ers just how great are the dis­in­cen­tives that aca­demics face in re­port­ing sus­pect es­says. These dis­in­cen­tives are not un­in­tended con­se­quences: they have been de­lib­er­ately put in place by uni­ver­si­ties that value rep­u­ta­tion above ed­u­ca­tion.

Those who run es­say mills are of­ten out­raged by crit­i­cism of their in­dus­try. This is not be­cause theirs is a par­tic­u­larly wor­thy en­deav­our, but rather be­cause blam­ing es­say mills hides the hypocrisy of their crit­ics.

We re­cently learned about aca­demics who pub­lish thou­sands of pa­pers (“Hyper­pro­lific aca­demics ‘don’t meet au­thor cri­te­ria’ – study”, News, 20 Septem­ber). Uni­ver­si­ties do not dis­cour­age such aca­demics even though they can­not pos­si­bly have writ­ten all the pa­pers they pub­lish. Oth­ers have writ­ten for them and have been paid, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, for their ef­forts. What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween this be­hav­iour and that of a stu­dent buy­ing an es­say? Ah, comes the tired, self-righ­teous re­sponse that McKie avoids: stu­dents are be­ing marked. And aca­demics are not? Stu­art Mac­don­ald

Vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor, School of Man­age­ment, Uni­ver­sity of Le­ices­ter

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