Academic editors provide a range of valuable and useful services to a range of clients, both academics and students.
Editors were concerned that Australian government legislation to deter the provision and advertising of academic contract cheating services could inadvertently apply to legitimate support for students such as editing.
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Prohibiting Academic Cheating Services) Bill 2019, which formally became law on 3 September 2020, defines an academic cheating service as:
‘the provision of work to or the undertaking of work for students, in circumstances where the work:
(a) is, or forms a substantial part of, an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake; or
(b) could reasonably be regarded as being, or forming a substantial part of, an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake.’
The explanatory memorandum to the legislation explains:
‘The definition of academic cheating service limits the types of assistance that are prohibited by the Bill to cases where all or a substantial part of an assessment task is offered or provided by the service. In practice, this means that incidental or inconsequential assistance, advice or example answers that might be offered to a student are not at risk of being captured by the new offence provisions. Any assistance that did not change the intent or meaning of the student’s work would not be prohibited by the Bill. For example, while editing of a student’s work by a third party might be prohibited by institutional policy, it would not be prohibited by the Bill so long as it didn’t represent a substantial part of the work.’
The explanatory memorandum further notes:
‘The definition of academic cheating service limits the types of assistance that are prohibited by the Bill to cases where all, or a substantial part of an assessment task that a student is required to personally undertake is offered or provided by the service. Because of this, no specific exemptions for types of assistance are considered necessary to include in the Bill.’
Assistance which is not an academic cheating service
However, the explanatory memorandum does provide seven examples of assistance that are not academic cheating services including editing, assisting with reference formatting, providing advice and providing tutoring services. Example 3 specifically refers to a professional editor editing a doctoral thesis.
‘Example 3: Debbie is a student at a higher education provider, completing a doctoral thesis. Debbie’s higher education provider allows the use of editorial services for doctoral theses. Claire runs a professional editorial service that fixes formatting, typographical and grammatical issues in higher education assessment tasks. Claire is paid by Debbie to edit Debbie’s doctoral thesis. As editing Debbie’s doctoral thesis does not represent a substantial part of the assessment task, Claire has not committed an offence or contravened the civil penalty provision under section 114A.’
Academic editors and their clients should be aware of three items:
- the new legislation to deter the provision and advertising of academic cheating services
- each individual university’s own policies on editing
- the Institute of Professional Editors’ Guidelines for editing research theses (2019).
- Department of Education, Skills and Employment (3 September 2020) Tackling contract cheating.
- Read the 21-page Bill, 25-page explanatory memorandum and 7-page addendum here.