Since 1992, the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) has worked with academic communities around the globe to promote a culture of academic integrity and discourage academic misconduct.  Since ICAI’s founding, contract cheating, defined below, has emerged as a world-wide concern. 

“The term contract cheating describes the form of academic dishonesty where students get academic work completed on their behalf, which they then submit for academic credit as if they had created it themselves.” (

Members and leaders of ICAI work on the front lines with students, instructors, and educational institutions to uphold the integrity of the degrees and certificates their institutions confer.  

In the past, contract cheating was often accomplished student-to-student. Now, in addition to this avenue, we (the members and leaders of ICAI) are seeing students turn to online companies advertising to “help” a student, when in fact, they undermine teaching and learning. Here are a few examples of this: 

  • Students look to internet sites for the exact question/problem/scenario given to them from their instructors.
  • If the student is unable to find the question/problem/scenario, they post the exact (or very similar) question(s) online for someone to answer.
  • Students copy the provided answer directly from the online source without spending time to understand it or check it for errors.
  • Students attempt to hide their online activities from institutional authorities by not making their name visible or by logging into “help” sites in a way that cannot be tied to their educational institution ID.

While the behavior of students is concerning, the behaviors exhibited by the so-called “helping” or “tutoring” websites are more concerning still.  The following are examples of such behaviors:

  • Allowing students to register with a non-institutional identifying email – in essence allowing them to hide or make it more difficult for educational institutions to know who has viewed or posted information.
  • Creating hurdles for educational administrators and instructors who are trying to get information about the posts and/or remove posts of copyrighted materials.
  • Requiring educational administrators and instructors to buy an account to monitor the illegal posting of copyrighted or otherwise-prohibited materials, to check if academic assignments and tests have been shared, and to determine who shared these materials and who has accessed them, both of which are academic offenses. 
  • Blackmailing students by threatening to notify their educational institutions that the student has been accessing unauthorized materials or assistance.

Especially on this day, the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, ICAI is taking a stand to say that these behaviors are wrong and do not create the culture of academic integrity that we as an association and our members strive for. 

We ask our members and other educational providers worldwide to take a stand as well.  This can be seen in a variety of ways:

  1. Blocking various internet sites that claim to “help” students but that promote academic misconduct and fraud
  2. Creating strong syllabus statements telling students to avoid these sites and let students know that even looking at them for course help could be an academic offense.
  3. Talking to students about the difference between looking at an answer online and understanding the thought process necessary to generate the answer, which is the goal of learning.
  4. Creating and/or promoting a wide variety of resources (i.e., writing workshops, tutoring centers, counseling services etc.) for students to support their academic success and maintain academic integrity.
  5. Developing course assignments and examinations that are resistant to cheating of any kind.

We also ask online companies to change their behavior, too, by:

  1. Ensure that all users are registered through their institutional email.
  2. Require all users to sign a pledge acknowledging they will uphold the values of academic integrity.
  3. Provide an easy method for challenging copyright and other infringements.

Unfortunately, contract cheating and the market for dishonest online “support” appears to be growing, particularly during the current pandemic. Far from being a benign problem, contract cheating has implications for the credibility of academic degrees, institutional accreditation, and for society as a whole, as the students who engage in contract cheating graduate, enter the workforce, and move into leadership positions. 

As an organization dedicated to enhancing academic integrity,  ICAI specifically denounces companies that profit from helping students cheat. Moreover, we call upon educational institutions, the corporate world, accrediting bodies, and governments to act to promote academic integrity by setting high expectations for themselves and those around them.

#integritymatters, #excelwithintegrity #myownwork