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