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Thematic series - The rise of contract cheating in higher education: academic fraud beyond plagiarism

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​​​​​Edited by 
Tracey Bretag, University of South Australia Business School

The term ‘contract cheating’ was first coined by Clarke and Lancaster (2006). Contract cheating occurs when students employ or use a third party to undertake their assessed work for them, and these third parties may include:

  • essay writing services;
  • friends, family or other students;
  • private tutors;
  • copyediting services;
  • agency websites or ‘reverse classifieds’ (Lancaster & Clarke, 2016: 639).

While clearly not a ‘new’ phenomenon, most commentators agree that there has been a global rise in contract cheating in recent years, across all disciplines. This has raised the level of community concern about the credibility of higher education qualifications and academic outputs, and also changed the nature of research on the topic of academic integrity. Of particular concern is the proliferation of marketing-savvy commercial providers who bombard students via social media, online platforms and other advertising forums about their ‘academic services’.

Educators and researchers agree that contract cheating is qualitatively different than plagiarism, collusion, or the other relatively minor breaches which have been the subject of attention in recent years, and so requires an entirely different approach. Contract cheating is difficult to detect and constitutes a form of fraud. Moreover, while educational responses have evolved to address longstanding issues of plagiarism, lack of understanding and/or poor academic literacies, education alone is not sufficient to address such a deliberate form of cheating (Bretag & Harper et al., 2016).

The recent explosion in contract cheating has given the international community of academic integrity scholars pause for thought. ‘Contract cheating’ is not the same as the less sinister and more widely accepted practice of ‘ghostwriting’ and has ramifications for individuals’ learning outcomes, institutional reputations, educational standards/credibility, professional practice and public safety, particularly if it is somehow normalised as an acceptable way for academic work to be accomplished.

The thematic series offers the opportunity for this emerging threat to academic integrity to be explored in-depth, and from multiple perspectives, so that meaningful responses and solutions can be instigated.

Deadline for submissions: 15th August 2017

Submission Instructions

Before submitting your manuscript, please ensure you have carefully read the submission guidelines for the International Journal for Educational Integrity (IJEI). The complete manuscript should be submitted through the IJEI submission system. To ensure that you submit to the correct thematic series please select the appropriate thematic series in the drop-down menu upon submission. In addition, indicate within your cover letter that you wish your manuscript to be considered as part of the thematic series on contract cheating. All submissions will undergo rigorous peer review and accepted articles will be published within the journal as a collection.

Submissions will also benefit from the usual advantages of open access publication:

Rapid publication: Online submission, electronic peer review and production make the process of publishing your article simple and efficient

High visibility and international readership in your field: Open access publication ensures high visibility and maximum exposure for your work - anyone with online access can read your article

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Authors retain copyright, licensing the article under a Creative Commons license: articles can be freely redistributed and reused as long as the article is correctly attributed.

For editorial enquiries please contact


Bretag, T., Harper, R., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., Saddiqui, S., and van Haeringen, K. (2016). Contract Cheating and Assessment Design: Exploring the Connection (Project proposal to the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching). Retrieved from

Clarke, R., & Lancaster, T. (2006). Eliminating the Successor to Plagiarism: Identifying the Usage of Contract Cheating Sites. Proceedings of the Second International Plagiarism Conference. United Kingdom, Gateshead, Retrieved from

Lancaster, T. and Clarke, R. (2016). Contract Cheating: The Outsourcing of Assessed Student Work, Chapter 44 in T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (Singapore: Springer): 639-654.

2017 Journal Metrics

  • Speed
    77 days from submission to first decision
    106 days from submission to acceptance
    17 days from acceptance to publication

    282 mentions in the media

This journal is indexed by

    • Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) - Clarivate
    • Scopus
    • Australian Education Index
    • CNKI
    • DOAJ
    • EBSCO Discovery Service
    • EBSCO Education Research Complete
    • EBSCO Education Source
    • EBSCO TOC Premier
    • Google Scholar
    • OCLC
    • Summon by ProQuest
    • The Philosopher's Index

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We offer a free open access support service to make it easier for you to discover and apply for article-processing charge (APC) funding. 


Authors without funds to cover the Article Processing Charge (APC) are eligible for a discretionary waiver of the APC, and should request a waiver during submission

International Journal for Educational Integrity also has waivers available at the Editor's discretion. Authors can contact the Editor in Chief for more information.