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Students pay for proof-readers online

A Cherwell investigation has revealed that many Oxford students pay for services that claim to significantly improve grades.

Companies providing such coursework ‘proof-reading’ services can charge between £2.50 and £10 per 1000 words. Having a thesis checked can cost as much as £100.

In the past week alone, eight different advertisements for proof-reading and editing services in the Oxford area have been listed on the classified ads website Gumtree, as well as two for help with assignment-writing.

University Examination Regulations state only that theses, extended essays and dissertations must be “the candidate’s own work”. However, a spokesperson for the University said, “Whilst there is no specific University regulation regarding coursework ‘proof-reading’ services, the University would take a dim view of students using any ‘proof-reading’ service that was really an aid to cheating.”

Some proof-readers claim to boost marks, with one advertising “Copy writing” and “Rewriting” as well as spelling and grammar checks. The advert states, “Apart from content, these are the things that annoy examiners and which they mark down for.”

Another independent proof-reader claims, “Having obtained a Bachelor’s Degree at the Law School of Aberdeen, and subsequent Master’s Degrees at the Universities of St Andrews and Oxford, I have developed the skills necessary to turn a failing paper into a passing paper, a good degree mark to a great one.”

Express Proofreading, which charges £2.50 per 1000 words or £55 for a thesis and claims to receive up to 20 requests a month from Oxford students, state that their services are popular with both students for whom English is a second language and native English speakers, “who have found our services beneficial as it made their work more academic and error free.”

A company representative told Cherwell, “We have a split of 70/30 between international students and British students. I think that because our ethos at Express Proofreading is to offer a top quality service at a low cost price, we attract people who wouldn’t normally bother to get their work checked but do and then often become repeat customers.”

She emphasised that the company would not write or paraphrase essay, adding, “I believe that proofreading is not cheating, as I am fundamentally just correcting their spellings and grammar etc and not adding any new information. In addition, I think it increases a student’s confidence and I have seen many students improve their English as a result.”

OUSU’s Academic Affairs Campaign Officer, Nick Cooper, commented, “All candidates have to confirm that submitted essays and theses are entirely their own work, and this protects the integrity of both students and the University. I know that other universities have clearer guidelines on paid proof-reading services, and Oxford should perhaps consider their position on the issue. However, given the calibre of Oxford students, and the excellent provision of supervision for theses and dissertations, it would be disappointing to think that students would need to resort to such services.”

However, other students defended the use of proof-reading services. One second year historian said, “I think it’s only fair to get a second pair of eyes to look at your work, and if you have to pay for that so be it.”

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