Invited Speaker Australian Society for Microbiology Annual Scientific Meeting 2018

Contract cheating in Australian higher education: Results from a nation-wide survey of students and staff (#91)

Tracey Bretag 1 , Rowena Harper
  1. University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

In response to numerous media scandals which exposed student cheating in Australian universities as an issue of concern, the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching commissioned a research project to explore the relationship between contract cheating and assessment design. Based on over 14,000 responses from university students and over 1,100 responses from teaching staff, this keynote presentation will share the key findings from that project, including:


  1. Contract cheating is influenced by three key factors: students’ dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment; students’ perception that there are ‘lots of opportunities to cheat’; and if students speak a Language Other than English (LOTE) at home.
  2. Students ‘share’ their work a lot, and this can lead to cheating.
  3. Students don’t care about contract cheating, and staff are not talking to them about it.
  4. Suspected cases of contract cheating often aren’t reported, and when they are, the penalties are lenient.
  5. Authentic assessment is not the ‘solution’. However, there are some types of assessment which are ‘less likely’ to be outsourced, yet these assessments are not widely used.


The presentation will provide a research-informed understanding of what contract cheating is, how and why it occurs, and the complex relationship between contract cheating and the teaching and learning environment. The presentation will briefly discuss practical strategies for addressing contract cheating via a multi-pronged approach which takes into consideration the broader higher education context, institutional frameworks, and what happens at the program and course levels.