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Writers for a major UK essay writing service are often highly educated and based locally, according to a new study that debunks the stereotype that this work is usually conducted in the Global South.
The research by Olumide Popoola, an education developer at Queen Mary University of London, emerged after a new law banning businesses from completing assignments on behalf of students came into force in England.
Mr Popoola’s analysis of people listed as freelancing for Nottingham-based Academic Knowledge on LinkedIn found 54 of 70 employees said they were based in the UK, with seven in Kenya and the rest in Australia, Poland and the US.
They had also mostly studied in the UK, with 19 graduates from Russell Group universities and 23 from other UK-based institutions among the employees. Most (28) had a master’s level degree and law was by far the most popular subject the writers had studied (15 graduates), followed by business (seven) and social sciences (six).
Mr Popoola found that most did the work on the side alongside a regular job and used it to top up their income. Other jobs the writers held alongside their work for Academic Knowledge included positions as paralegals, research assistants, trainee solicitors and PhD students, indicating that they were using the work to develop pre-existing careers in research or academia.
“My research suggests that ‘academic writing’ is an attractive option for people already working in writing- and research-related industries, not only as an extra source of income but also as a way of developing their knowledge and ultimately their careers – almost like paid self-development,” said Mr Popoola, who presented his study at the European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism earlier this month.
Academic Knowledge’s writers draft model essays for students for a fee but the company stresses that it retains the copyright over such work and they should never be handed in as their own. The company has not advertised jobs on LinkedIn for six months, and calls to its office were being diverted to voicemail.
Experts have indicated that they do not expect significant numbers of prosecutions under England’s new law, since many essay mills are based overseas and it can be hard to trace their operators.
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