The United Kingdom is looking at new ways to punish those who plagiarize. Photo: CC, Jobs For Felons Hub, John Murray Publisher. Edits: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.
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Problem of plagiarism is under-addressed, and more consequences are needed

A criminal record is nothing to joke about. They follow you everywhere you go, to every job you interview for or relationship you enter. Yes, many people can look past it, but many others cannot.

In the United Kingdom, they are now cracking down on lawbreakers in a surprising way. The government is working in collaboration with the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and university regulators to tighten the rules regarding academic fraud, which could potentially leave students who plagiarize with criminal records.

Speaking as a student this may surprise you, but I think that having significantly tougher standards to punish plagiarists could be a good thing.

The U.K. has been facing a problem known as “contract cheating”—AKA academic fraud—for a period of time now. According to documents released by U.K. universities, there are around 50,000 students that spend over £6,000 ($10,009 Canadian) on pre-written essays per year.

These numbers are disheartening, as they show the lack of quality that is put into many British university degrees. These students are not fulfilling the authentic requirements of the degree, which makes the whole thing much less useful.

The QAA, the university, and the government are all hoping to at least change the university guidelines for this upcoming September school year. The law will most likely start out as a fine, but will end up leaving a mark on permanent records.

The students will be charged with a fine, and services that helped student plagiarize will be charged with “aiding or enabling for financial gain individuals to commit acts of academic dishonesty.” The university is trying to deter the students with the threat of suppressing their future.  

This tactic could work because, as previously established, a criminal record will last forever. If a student’s goal is to better their future at university, they know the opposite will happen if they plagiarize. Only in a student population could you apply this approach because the people that are attending university are doing it for the sole suppose of obtaining higher education and better career opportunities in the future, and a criminal record will diminish that.  

This method could be applied in Canada as well. Even at the University of Ottawa, plagiarism cases rose by almost 50 per cent between 2008 and 2013. And such examples can be found across the country. The problem of plagiarism isn’t unique to the U.K., it’s something we need to worry about here at home as well.

At the end of the day, academic fraud is a serious crime that has been neglected by students for years. It’s time universities take action and show the seriousness of this act. If you do not have the time to write an essay, then hopefully you have time to deal with the life-long implications of a criminal record.