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Why are students using essay writing services to cheat?

A recent BBC investigation found that more than 250 YouTube channels are being paid to promote EduBirdie, a service which lets students buy essays rather than write them themselves. Is cheating rife in our schools and universities?

A lot of focus has been placed on YouTube’s responsibility to do something about it. But what’s clear is the implicit popularity of these essay writing services – it can’t be a small and struggling industry for companies like EduBirdie to be paying so many YouTube stars for adverts.

The investigation also raised questions over why students would use an essay writing service. Unbelievably, in their adverts a few YouTubers said that EduBirdie would free up your time so you can play video games or take drugs.

The EduBirdie website itself is more vague, saying: “when you buy a custom essay through EduBirdie, you’ll have more time to focus on what matters while achieving academic success.”

Pulling a fast one?

Of course, academic success isn’t the only thing that matters in life, but if you do choose to undertake higher education you should probably take it somewhat seriously – whatever EduBirdie says.

Yet I don’t think it’s always the case that students are trying to pull a fast one when they use an essay writing service. It’s probably true in some cases, but I think it’s a more nuanced issue than that.

We all know that education can be challenging – if you’re a student, or know someone who is, it’s worth taking a look at our revision advice for tips on lessening the load.

Under pressure

When I was at school and university, I felt under extreme pressure to succeed. I never went as far as to use an essay writing service, but I also accept that my environment allowed me to work hard and focus on my studies.

This considered, part of me can understand why someone would use one of these services. If a student has a challenging home life or they’re working two jobs just to get by at uni, for example, they simply might not have enough time, resources or mental energy to really commit to their work.

A student might also suffer from a severe lack of self-belief in their own abilities, but simultaneously might not want to be seen as a failure by their family or friends. Universities are increasingly tuned into mental health and wellbeing issues, and there’s often help for students if they need it.

I’m not saying that anyone should get a pass to submit work that isn’t theirs, but I think it’s important to consider the myriad of reasons a student might have to do that – and try to understand and learn from it.

Harsh penalties

If a student gets caught submitting work that isn’t theirs, the penalties can be severe. But there’ll likely be no or minimal repercussions for companies like EduBirdie, as essay writing services aren’t illegal.

But even if you can get away with it, is it worth it? What about the wider damage done to education? It certainly muddies the playing field in terms of fairness. And there’s actually no certainty that you will earn a good grade with a fake essay.

Essay writing services tend to say they can guarantee a top grade. But when the BBC ordered an English Literature GCSE coursework essay, it was given a level 5/6 (or around a C, if you haven’t yet got to grips with the new GCSE grading system).

And the first-year degree course assignment it paid for earned 60%, which is good but not quite jaw-dropping.

Would you use an essay writing service if you were a school or university student? How do we tackle the problem?