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Kingston University students alarmed by ‘dodgy’ email offering paid essay writing service

By Isabella Ruffatti Mar 1, 2020
Person typing on a keyboard. Credit: RexFeatures

An essay writing firm targeted Kingston University students, offering to write assignments for a set price, in an email sent two weeks ago.

The email, which advertised custom written assignments, dissertations and presentations, was sent to at least 20 students and had disappeared from their inbox by Wednesday.Renewable energy student Julie Sirvent described the email as “dodgy” and posted a screenshot on a KU student Facebook group to raise awareness before deleting the email.

“I wanted to make sure no one would fall for it,” she said.

At first, criminology student Kaitlyn Taylor thought the service was something the University offered, like CASE, but as she read on, she realised it was an independent.

Taylor, who struggled with anxiety and depression while working hard to get into university, felt betrayed by the people who offer and use this kind of service.

The first-year said: “Some of us have had to work ourselves to the bone to be where we are now. If you can afford it, other people will give you a free ride through university and do your assignments for you. I was just gobsmacked, to be honest.”

essay mill, students
The email sent to students advertising an essay writing service. Photo: Julie Sirvent

The sender of the email appeared to be The Document Co, which boasted clients from Bath University, UCL and Durham University in the email.

An email sent to students on Friday by University registrar Keith Brennan and Pro Vice-Chancellor Trish Reid stated that the company did not have permission to email students and assured that data protection was taken very seriously by the University.

On its website, the company describes itself as “not just an average content writing firm, we cater to the needs of each and every client individually, ultimately providing you with a unique piece of writing.”

The Document Co charges between £50 to £60 per 1000 words for its essay and dissertation writing services.

Master’s student Ariel Looper said she would not consider using their services.

Looper, who is from the United States and studies film, said: “Coming to school here, it’s kind of that thing where you want to prove it to yourself that you can do it and that you did it on your own. I guess I wouldn’t want anyone to take that away from me.”

She added: “My fees here are doubled [as an international student], so that’s double the loss… getting kicked out of university for plagiarising an essay.”

In 2017, Kingston University, along with other UK universities, were urged by university standards watchdog Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the Government to crack down on students using “essay mill” services

In response, the University sent some students an email reminding them that cheating is defined as academic misconduct under the University’s regulations.

A KU spokesperson reminded students that cheating is defined as academic misconduct under the University’s regulations and said: “Any student found guilty of this offence will fail the module, will not be permitted a retake, and either will be obliged to repeat the whole module in the following session receiving a capped mark or have their registration at the University terminated.”

When Luca Anescu, a third-year computer science and game programming student saw the University’s first email, he panicked.

He said: “It nearly looked like I was being accused of plagiarism before I read the message in its entirety.”

On Monday, the University sent an email to students apologising and clarified that they did not suggest students were cheating.

When The River asked the University for comment, they replied: “The purging of malicious or unsolicited SPAM emails is carried out only in rare instances where it is necessary to protect the University’s digital infrastructure and to protect individual staff and students from unwanted, malicious or upsetting content.”

The Document Co could not be reached for comment. 

By Isabella Ruffatti

Picture/Visual Editor and reporter at The River.

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