It has emerged that a secret market in academic essays is flourishing on the internet, allowing international students to cheat at Australian universities.
Businesses that claim to specialize in writing essays on subjects ranging from humanities to engineering, are openly advertising on websites popular with international students, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
According to the report, at least a dozen students have said these services are an open secret among international students.
In one case, a Melbourne University student said she was blackmailed after she refused to pay for an assignment.
The student, who asked to remain anonymous, said she bought an essay online because she feared she would miss a submission date, and said she knew at least five other students who had bought assignments and submitted them.
"I found a contact number about essay help on a bulletin board at our school. I emailed them, and I was really surprised when they replied in Chinese. I assumed they had a lot of Chinese-background people using that service," she said.
Most of these students say they bought these essays after visiting Chinese-language social media sites.
The essay-writing businesses reportedly approach students directly on social media sites, including Weibo, QQ and MSN, and also advertise on many Chinese-language news sites in Australia. One provider apparently offers 1000 words for between 160 dollars and 220 dollars.
Many universities use plagiarism detection software such as Turnitin, but some businesses claim that they can guarantee their assignments will pass a plagiarism test, the report said.