November 12, 2014 – 11:45PM
Senior reporter for The Canberra Times.
Mastermind: Yingying Dou is the director of the MyMaster website, which offers an essay-writing service for university students. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Canberra university students have been implicated in the MyMaster Chinese online essay-writing scandal with a website offering to write essays for a fee operating in the ACT market.
The Chinese language website, Canberra Professional Copywriting, is advertised on the tutoring business website Yingcredible, which is run by MyMaster director Yingying Dou.
The MyMaster website has been pulled down after a Fairfax Media investigation uncovered the sophisticated online business – which is run out of Sydney’s Chinatown and has infiltrated NSW institutions. MyMaster has produced thousands of university assignments and turned over hundreds of thousands of dollars since it began operating in May 2012.
Thousands of Sydney students have paid up to $1000 for the service, which promises to deliver essays to students’ specification and unidentifiable to academic authorities.
The Canberra website targets students across the Australian National University, Bruce, Belconnen, UniLodge, Turner and Braddon.
It also boasts “team members are from various schools in Australia, Australian National University, University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, University of Adelaide”.
The website promises to prepare assignments across the subjects of business, science, engineering, IT, and “all other professions”.
“High quality and low prices … 100 per cent guarantee high satisfaction after the payment,” it says.
It is not known how established the scheme has become in the ACT. The Canberra contact listed on Professional Copywriting, “Roy”, did not return calls on Wednesday.
The ANU said it was investigating the website.
“This has been rising global issue over the past decade and one that the university takes seriously and has been carefully monitoring,” a spokeswoman said. “ANU does all it can to address the issue, including use of technology to monitor for plagiarism and educating students about the requirements of academic integrity and serious consequences of breaches.”
These consequences range from counselling to exclusion from completing a degree.
“Students submitting any work are required to formally confirm with their signature that the work is entirely their own. If plagiarism is detected, students are subject to disciplinary proceedings,” the spokeswoman said.
The university also took very seriously the impact on its reputation of the website claiming to use ANU alumni to provide essay-writing services.
The University of Canberra’s deputy vice-chancellor education, Professor Nick Klomp, said these sorts of websites popped up and disappeared regularly and academics were well aware of their existence.
Last year, Professor Klomp investigated 153 reports of plagiarism at the University of Canberra – 148 of which were substantiated.
“But in the context that across the university 300,000 assignments were submitted that is less than 0.05 per cent. The vast majority of students are doing the right thing.”
If a student was caught cheating, they failed the unit. Repeat offenders were excluded from finishing their degree, Professor Klomp said.
“The first thing we do is educate students about their responsibilities through our academic integrity module.”
The university also used Urkund anti-plagiarism software.
“Generally, we make it hard to cheat – we set assignments that require localised knowledge or reference lecture material.”
Professor Klomp warned students not to believe the claims used on websites such as Canberra Professional Copywriting and he revealed that while he was working at another university, he had been contacted by two separate essay-writing outfits disclosing two students had used their services but not paid the bill.
“These outfits are completely shonky and it’s simply extortion,” he said.
Source : The Canberra Times