Have you ever come across a student assessment that you think may have been completed by someone other than them?

The results of the biggest study to date into contract cheating will be presented by the University of South Australia’s Associate Professor Tracey Bretag on 19 July from 1-2pm in the Lewis Lecture Theatre. All staff are welcome to attend.

Contract cheating in Australian universities: Findings from a nation-wide survey of students and staff

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 (see Bretag & Harper et al 2018; Harper & Bretag et al 2018), this presentation will share the key findings from that project, including:

  1. Contract cheating is the symptom of a higher education system under stress.
  2. Students ‘share’ their work a lot, and this can lead to cheating.
  3. Students largely outsource their work to those they know, rather than commercial providers.
  4. Contract cheating is influenced by three key factors: if students speak a Language Other than English (LOTE) at home; students’ perception that there are ‘lots of opportunities to cheat’; and students’ dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment.
  5. Students don’t care about contract cheating, and staff are not talking to them about it.
  6. Suspected cases of contract cheating often aren’t reported, and when they are, the penalties are lenient.
  7. Assessment design has a role to play, but ‘authentic assessment’ is not the solution and nor is a return to high stakes exams.
  8. 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, which includes but is not limited to assessment design. 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.


Contract Cheating and Assessment Design Project website: www.cheatingandassessment.edu.au

Associate Professor Tracey Bretag is the Director of the UniSA Business School Office for Academic Integrity. Tracey’s research for over 15 years has focussed on all aspects of academic integrity. Since 2011 she has led four large Australian Office for Learning and Teaching funded research projects, and is currently co-leading (with Rowena Harper) the OLT project Contract cheating and assessment design: Exploring the connection. This project has included the largest survey to date of students and teaching staff about their attitudes towards, and experiences with contract cheating.

Tracey is the founding Editor of the International Journal for Educational Integrity (SpringerOpen), Editor-in-Chief of the Handbook of Academic Integrity (Springer 2016), former Chair of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Educational Integrity, and Immediate Past President of the Executive Board to the International Center for Academic Integrity in the U.S. She is the Lead Advisor for the Oxford University Press (Epigeum) Academic Integrity training program for staff and students, currently in production.


Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Saddiqui, S., Rozenberg, P & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: A survey of Australian university students, Studies in Higher Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462788 

Harper, R., Bretag, T., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Saddiqui, S., Rozenberg, P & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: A survey of Australian university staff, Studies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462789