ENZ downplays essay cheating scandal   

May 13, 2013

The Chief Executive of Education New Zealand, Grant McPherson, said only “a small minority of students” were involved in a cheating scandal, following an undercover investigation by the Sunday Star Times that alleged Chinese students were buying academic assignments.

The newspaper claimed that Assignment4U, an Auckland-based company with a Chinese language website, was providing full tailor-made, ghost written essays for clients.

The Sunday Star Times learned of the service through a former employee of the company and launched an undercover operation in which a fictitious student paid NZ$270 (US$223) for a B-grade standard communications essay at Canterbury University. It claims Assignments4U asked for lecture notes in order to produce the essay. A Media and Communications lecturer at the university said the submitted paper would probably have got a B+.

McPherson said he was disappointed when he heard of the issue last week, but was glad to hear it would be investigated by the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA).

“Unfortunately, cheating within institutions is not a new problem – it’s been going on for decades in countries around the world. Nor is it a problem peculiar to Chinese students or to students from any other country,” said McPherson.

He added that ENZ was working to manage the situation and any damage to relations with China – New Zealand’s largest source of students. “ENZ has excellent relationships with the Chinese education sector and our Regional Director, Greater China, is in touch with Chinese officials to ensure there is no misunderstanding about the issue or the New Zealand Government’s response to the matter.”

According to the Sunday Star Times, NZQA received an anonymous tip about the service three months ago, but failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing. NZQA Chief Executive, Karen Poutasi, confirmed the agency would conduct a fresh enquiry, seeking evidence gathered by the newspaper. Under changes to the law in August 2011, NZQA has the authority to prosecute anyone advertising or providing cheating services.

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