Universities are pushing for a law that will make student publishing a criminal offence

Posted on Aug 24, 2019

Universities have pushed the government to draft a law that may inadvertently make student publishing and other legitimate educational tools illegal, with penalties of up to two years imprisonment and/or $210,000 for an offence.

The ‘Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019’ will be debated in parliament in coming months and we strongly urge all students to take action and voice their opinion that the rights of student publishers should be respected.

If we don’t oppose the draft, the laws may inadvertently capture student publishing and legitimate study tools

The new cheating laws attempt to target contract cheating services such as essay mills and ghostwriting however the broad and vague phrasing of these new laws also appear to capture student publishing.

The section that is concerning to Australian students is:

Section 114A(3)(b): ‘providing any part of a piece of work or assignment..’

Under this section, students publishing past work may be committing an offence by ‘providing any part of’ an assignment, regardless of how many years after the completion of a subject the work is published.

As is the case with a variety of studied works, a student completing an assignment often builds upon past research and ideas. Concerningly, this draft legislation is worded in a way that may imply a situation where something a student publishes today may be considered lawful but may become an offence tomorrow, if that material becomes relevant to an assignment undertaken in future at a university.

The wording also has broader consequences and potentially criminalises proofreading by mums and dads, in addition to essentially any person that provides work that is relevant to an assignment, whether they intended to provide a student with “part of a piece of work or assignment” or otherwise.

Of most concern, this broad draft legislation also carries with it a punishment equvalent to that of common assault, being penalties of up to two years imprisonment and/or $210,000 for each infringement. This is clearly unacceptable when considering the wide variety of legitimate educational pursuits that may in some way be captured under this umbrella.

The law clearly needs to be reworked to respect the rights of student publishers and we urge all students to speak up so that the law captures actual contract cheating providers and not legitimate study practices such as student publishing.