The Telegraph is reporting that firms have been infiltrating private Facebook groups for incoming freshers to advertise their services, as well as contacting students directly by sending them personal messages on social networking site.
In other cases, the essay mills have gained access to first year students’ private WhatsApp group conversations. Elsewhere, they have used Twitter to target university students who have voiced their exasperation about the amount of work they have to do.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which monitors standards in universities, warned that “unscrupulous” essay mill companies are using “increasingly sophisticated tactics, particularly through social media, to target students”.
Gareth Crossman, the QAA’s head of policy and public affairs, said that these companies often claim to offer entirely legitimate study aids, sending “a message which new students in particular might be vulnerable to”.
Lauren Davies, a first year Sociology student at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) in Kent, described how essay mill firms first gained access to the main Facebook group for incoming freshers and then to the WhatsApp group.
“They’re posting adverts everyday and sometimes up to three times a day, suggesting that if we students paid £300 plus we would be able to receive their essay writing services, and not ‘gamble with our grades’.”
An English Literature MA student at Liverpool University wrote on Twitter: “I don’t know what to write for my essay [and] it’s due in two weeks 🙁 why did I do this to myself?”
Within hours, she had been sent messages from three different companies offering to write the essay for her, one promising “no plagiarism” while another claimed it can “guarantee you quality”.
The universities minister said that these kind of aggressive advertising tactics are “shocking and appalling” adding that “targeting of students in this way is corrosive to education”.
Sam Gyimah called on social media companies to “take responsibility” over the issue, adding that previous Government interventions have forced YouTube to remove adverts for essay mills.
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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