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Essay mills must be tackled by online giants such as PayPal, Education Secretary says

Camilla Turner
 Google and YouTube have already removed hundreds of adverts and promotions for essay–writing companies  - PA

Essay mills must be tackled by online giants such as PayPal, the Education Secretary has said.

Damian Hinds said that the cash transfer website is “one of the main methods” used by university students to pay “unscrupulous” companies to write coursework, essays and dissertations on their behalf.

Google and YouTube have already removed hundreds of adverts and promotions for essay–writing companies, following requests from ministers.

Mr Hinds said it is "unethical" for companies to profit from dishonest practices, adding that PayPal has a “moral duty” to block payments to essay mills.

"Sadly there have always been some people who opt for the easy way and the internet has seen a black market in essay writing services spring up,” he said.

"However, no matter how easy it is to access these services now, it doesn't change the fact that this is cheating, and students must understand it is unacceptable.

"It is simply unethical for these companies to profit from this dishonest business which is exploiting young people and it is time to stamp them out of our world-class higher education sector.”

A spokesman for PayPal said the company was already reviewing the issue. Ministers are also urging universities to crack down on those found cheating.

He is asking institutions to consider "honour codes" which would see students pledge not to use essay writing services for their own assignments.

In 2016, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) found approximately 17,000 instances of academic offences per year in the UK. However, the number of students using essay writing services is thought to be much higher as plagiarised essays often go undetected.

Douglas Blackstock, chief executive of the QAA, said: "Companies that try to entice students to buy so-called plagiarism free essays pose a real threat to the academic integrity of our higher education.

"These unscrupulous operators, increasingly and falsely marketing themselves as providing legitimate study aids, must be stopped in their tracks."